By Carrie Wells and Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
8:02 PM EDT, July 29, 2013
A fire inside the former Seagram's plant in Dundalk on Saturday night remains under investigation after a man jumped three stories to escape the blaze and suffered life-threatening injuries, Baltimore County officials said.
Investigators said Monday they still did not know what the man was doing at the vacant facility, and they plan to conduct more security checks there. Over the past five years, firefighters have responded to reports of fire there about a dozen times, said Elise Armacost, a county public safety spokeswoman. .
"It is well known to our firefighters and police officers," Armacost said of the Seagram's property in the 7100 block of Sollers Point Road.
The incidents have ranged from minor fires to blazes requiring a multiple-alarm response, she said. On Saturday, more than 100 firefighters responded to the scene.
Lt. Jay Ringgold, a Fire Department spokesman, said the man injured in the fire called 911 about 9:30 p.m. to report the blaze and said he feared for his life.
"It's a locked, closed facility, and no one should have been in the building at that time," Ringgold said.
The fire in a former distillery building was not under control until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday and escalated to three alarms, Ringgold said. Some embers spread to roofs on buildings elsewhere, but those blazes were extinguished and the fire did not spread to nearby homes.
The man was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition Monday, Armacost said.
"He is very seriously hurt, and we've not been able to interview him yet," she said.
Part of the roof and interior of the building collapsed, Ringgold said. On Monday at 5:12 p.m., firefighters were called back to the scene to extinguish a small fire that had broken out, fire officials said.
Developer John Vontran, who owns the property, said Monday he did not want to comment on the fire until he received more information from police.
The distillery, which was converted to make other forms of alcohol during the two world wars, has been considered for revitalization efforts by county officials, with plans that it might be used for condominiums or stores. Vontran is part of a group that has proposed moving public recreational facilities at the North Point Government Center to the Seagram's site and then building stores at the government center.
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