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Havre de Grace high rise fire blamed on smoking

State fire marshals say Thursday's fire that forced the temporary evacuation of a Havre de Grace high rise apartment building was caused by a resident smoking while using oxygen.

The fire at The Graw, a six-story, 66-unit building in the 100 block of Revolution Street, that is occupied mostly by senior citizens, caused an estimated $100,000 damage to the structure and a loss of contents valued at $25,000, according to a Notice of Investigation issued Friday afternoon by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

The fire caused the building to be evacuated for a little over an hour because of smoke throughout all six floors, fire and rescue personnel at the scene said.

Fire officials at the scene said two people were hospitalized at nearby Harford Memorial Hospital with undisclosed injuries and a third person refused treatment at the scene. The Fire Marshal's Office report Friday confirmed that one person suffered second degree burns to his face, hands and right foot. The other person was transported to the hospital for a non-fire related medical condition.

The fire was reported at 2:39 p.m. in an apartment on the second floor of the building. Susquehanna Hose Company of Havre de Grace Chief Scott Hurst said the apartment where the fire broke was left uninhabitable. At the scene, Hurst said one man, who is in his 50s, had sustained serious injuries but was pulled out of the building before firefighters arrived. The second person who lived in a different apartment, also reported not feeling well and was taken to the hospital.

The fire, which went to two alarms, contained within 20 minutes. According to the Fire Marshal's Office's initial report, two sprinkler heads activated in the building, "containing the fire until suppression units arrived."

Units from the Susquehanna Hose Company, Level Volunteer Fire Company and Aberdeen Fire Department responded. Units from Perryville in Cecil County and Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department were also alerted. The hospital transports were made by the Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps.

In all, 70 firefighters responded, according to the Fire Marshal's Office.

The fire marshal's report says the fire started in a living room chair. "Occupant was smoking while using oxygen," the notice of investigation states.

Residents were allowed back into the building shortly before 4 p.m.

Assisting at the scene were the Havre de Grace Police Department, Harford County Emergency Operations, Disaster Assistance Team and the American Red Cross. Aid was provided to anyone displaced by the fire, officials at the scene said, although they did not know how many residents were unable to return to their apartments.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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