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Firefighters battle blazes in Aberdeen, Joppa, Forest Hill

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Harford firefighters were kept busy Saturday, battling three blazes in different parts of Harford County, causing nearly $350,000 in damages to buildings in Aberdeen, Joppa and Forest Hill.

Nearly two dozen residents were displaced from their homes overnight after a fire in Aberdeen early Saturday morning.

At 3:19 a.m., volunteers from Aberdeen Fire Department, Susquehanna Hose Company in Havre de Grace and Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company, as well as firefighters from Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department, responded to the Aberdeen In Town Motel in the 400 block of South Philadelphia Boulevard for a building fire, according to the Harford County Md Fire & EMS PIO media page on Facebook.

When firefighters arrived heavy smoke was showing. The blaze was controlled in about 30 minutes, according to the Facebook post.

No injuries were reported but 20 residents of the motel, owned by Herbert Guidice, were displaced because of the fire. Guidice is helping those displaced residents.

The fire marshal responded and was still on the scene around 9 a.m. Saturday.

According to a notice of investigation from the fire marshal, the accidental fire started when combustibles were placed too close to an electric heater.

Damage was estimated to be $10,000 to the building and $5,000 to the contents, according to the notice.

Joppa blaze

Firefighters from the Joppa-Magnolia, Abingdon, Fallston, Bel Air volunteer fire companies and Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department in Harford County, as well as White Marsh and Kingsville volunteer fire companies in Baltimore County,  descended on the 800 block of Wiesser Court in Joppa for a two-alarm house fire around 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation; it started in the hallway of an entrance to the house, which is owned by Phyllis E. Vanhorn, according to a notice of investigation from the fire marshal's office. 

Damage is estimated at $200,000 to the building and $50,000 to the contents, according to the notice.

The fire marshal said the home had smoke detectors but they were not working.

An estiamted 75 volunteer and six paid firefighters had the fire under control by 11:20 a.m., according to a press release from Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company.

“Extra personnel were brought in so we could rotate crews and keep fatigue at a minimum,” Andy Doyle, public information officer for the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, said at the scene.

He noted the fire was large enough that he could see the smoke as he was driving a hook-and-ladder truck along Trimble Road; the intersection of Joppa Road and Trimble is about a mile and a half from the scene.

In a later press release, Doyle said firefighters from fire engines took hoses into the home to extinguish the fire, while firefighters from the ladder truck raised ladders to windows and the roof, while searching for any trapped occupants and ventilating the home; no one was found inside.

Temperatures were in the low 30s Saturday; Doyle said he had recorded a wind chill of 16 degrees.

He said the cold “presents a serious hazard” for firefighters because of the risk of water freezing.

A heated school bus was also provided to give firefighters a place to warm up as investigators with the Office of the State Fire Marshal examined the scene.

Wendy Buchwald, a driver with JDT Transportation Inc. of Forest Hill, kept the bus running as more than 20 firefighters rested in the vehicle after the fire was out.

“They said, ‘Can you go?’ and I said, ‘No problem,’ ” she said.

Doyle also gave “a gracious shout out” to the members of the Bel Air Volunteer Company auxiliary for providing hot and cold drinks.

“They're a godsend in the cold weather,” he said of the auxiliary members. “We love seeing them, and in the hot weather we love seeing them.”

While the exterior of the single-family house at Wiesser Court appeared to be intact, the interior appeared to be gutted by the fire.

Bill Vanhorn of Joppatowne said his mother and brother lived in the house, which he grew up in.

He said his mother escaped unharmed and his brother was not home at the time.

Vanhorn said he was “devastated” to see the damage to his “family home.”

 Forest Hill blaze

A home in the 500 block of Forest Valley Drive in Forest Hill also suffered an estimated $80,000 in damage Saturday shortly before noon.

Damage to the roof and exterior siding could be seen on the two-story house as investigators with the fire marshal’s office spoke with the homeowner.

The owner, Robert P. Bouthner, discovered the fire around 11:45 a.m. and tried to put it out with a portable fire extinguisher, according to a notice of investigation from the fire marshal's office, but the fire grew in intensity and he alled 911. Boughner and his dog escaped without injury and are being helped by the American Red Cross.

The fire marshal determined the accidental fire started on the rear sun porch after an electrical malfunction in the ceiling, according to the notice.

It took about 50 firefighters from BelAir, Jarrettsville, Fallston, Darlington and Jacksonville (Baltimore County) volunteer fire companies about 30 minutes to put out the fire.

Damage is estimated at $60,000 to the building and $20,000 to the contents.

Valerie Glynn of the county’s disaster assistance and mobile crisis team stood outside the house, holding the homeowner’s dog on a leash.

She said the disaster assistance team would provide the homeowner with a place to stay until he could contact his insurance company; disaster assistance also provides psychological assistance and referrals for clothing and food to disaster victims.

Rich Gardiner, spokesman for the Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association, and a member of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, reported on the Fire & EMS PIO Page on Facebook that “multiple” Harford County companies responded to the fire.

He wrote that the blaze was extinguished in 15 minutes, and there were no injuries.

Gardiner stated that the fire had been contained to the sunroom and second floor of the house.

Please check back with www.exploreharford.com for updates.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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