Hagerstown, MD – Sprinkler system activates in overnight apartment fire giving residents opportunity to escape

A Monday morning fire that displaced 46 residents at Cortland Apartments in the North End of Hagerstown started on the balcony of one of the apartments, according to Hagerstown Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven. DeHaven said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that the fire traveled up the exterior of the the building and into an attic area.  Although fire walls in the attic and between the apartments contained most of the damage to one corner of the building, the blaze caused significant damage to apartments Nos. 2, 6 and 10, he said.

An investigation determined that the building had functional sprinkler, fire-alarm and smoke-alarm systems, the release said. The sprinkler system was activated when balcony windows cracked from the heat, allowing the fire to extend into the apartments, DeHaven said.  But the activation of the sprinkler system, along with the fire alarm, gave residents enough time to escape, he said.

Bob Rhodes, the complex’s manager, said that three of the 12 units in the building sustained heavy damage. It is too early to determine whether the structure will be razed or rebuilt because fire and insurance inspectors were still assessing the damage, he said.  All 61 of the residents and pets who were displaced by the fire at the apartments at 12911 Little Elliott Drive have been given places to stay until they find more permanent accommodations.  Korri Faria, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Western Maryland, said the 46 residents who were displaced by the fire are staying in hotels, or with family or friends.  “We were on scene to make sure everyone has a place to stay for a few days,” she said.

Faria said all of the hotel rooms are being paid for by the Red Cross, which also provided the victims with cards to buy food, clothing and other essentials they might need. The Red Cross also helped to replace medications that were destroyed in the fire, which was reported shortly after 5 a.m.  In addition to the residents, the two-alarm blaze displaced 15 pets.  Crystal Mowery, field service director for the Humane Society of Washington County, said a majority of the pets stayed with their owners, but one cat and one dog were taken to the humane society shortly after the fire.  Another dog was taken there later that day.  “We are housing the animals at no charge until (the victims) find a place for them,” she said.  To her knowledge, Mowery said none of the pets perished in the fire. A single cat escaped, but it has not been accounted found.

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