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Fire damages several vehicles in Harford hotel parking lot

Several vehicles parked in a hotel parking lot near I-95 and Route 543 in Harford County were damaged by fire early Friday morning.
Several vehicles parked in a hotel parking lot near I-95 and Route 543 in Harford County were damaged by fire early Friday morning. (Courtesy Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Serious injuries and potentially more significant property damage were narrowly averted early Friday morning, when a fire in a vehicle parked at a Harford County hotel spread to other vehicles and also ignited an oxygen cylinder, according to fire investigators.

The fire occurred in the parking lot of the Country Inn & Suites in the 1400 block of Handlir Drive which, although within one the two Bel Air zip codes, is close to the Route 543 and Interstate 95 interchange in Riverside.

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Around 6 a.m. a passerby, who is a member of the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company, observed fire under a 2005 Cadillac Escalade parked in the hotel's lot, Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire, said.

"What happened was the owner of the vehicle was sleeping inside and the volunteer firefighter was on his way to work when he saw flames," Alkire explained. "He called 911 and gets the man out of the Escalade."

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The fire spread to other vehicles that were parked nearby before fire equipment arrived, Alkire said.

Alkire said neither man was injured; however, at some point there was an explosion involving an oxygen cylinder inside one of the affected vehicles.

In all, seven vehicles sustained fire damage, with the total losses estimated at $200,000 to the vehicles and another $5,000 to their contents, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office's notice of investigation of the fire.

Approximately 20 firefighters from the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company and Aberdeen Fire Department responded, needing about 20 minutes to bring the fires under control, according to the notice of investigation.

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"Fortunately, thank God, nobody got hurt," Alkire said. He said the owner of the Escalade "was extremely fortunate that he [the passing volunteer firefighter] could catch it early."

Alkire said the fire did not spread to the adjoining hotel. The incident remains under investigation, he said, and investigators have not yet identified a potential cause.

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