A three-alarm fire last night and early today in Curtis Bay destroyed a storage warehouse and several trailers parked alongside the building and filled the heavily industrial area with thick smoke.
Capt. Patrick P. Flynn, a city Fire Department spokesman, said the fire caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage.
No injuries were reported.
Flynn said the 150-foot-long wood and sheet metal building in the 1900 block of Benhill Ave. off Pennington Avenue was being used by the Williams Hauling Co. for storage and was empty except for a few junk cars.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Charles "Dick" Smith, 59, who lives in a trailer near the warehouse and is employed by the hauling company as a watchman, said he was awakened shortly after 11:30 p.m. by a man knocking on his door.
"When I stepped outside," Smith said, "all I saw was flames going in the air and heavy smoke all over the place."
Smith said he was awaiting the arrival of firefighters when most of the metal roof over the more than 100-year-old building collapsed in a shower of sparks.
Smith told police that several teen-agers were seen walking away from the building shortly before the fire was discovered.
"Kids run through here all the time," said Smith.
Jess Williams, the hauling company owner, said he was using the building for storage, but that most of it was empty. He said the cars being stored in and near the building had no real value.
Flynn said the first alarm was sounded at 11:41 p.m., with the second and third being pulled in the next 14 minutes.
He said 29 pieces of equipment operated by nearly 100 firefighters battled the blaze before it was brought under control at 12:35 a.m.
Flynn said the fire quickly spread throughout the building and that flames engulfed several storage trailers and vehicles parked next to the warehouse.
Long after the warehouse fire was extinguished, small fires in trailers continued to burn harmlessly.
Two aerial towers poured tons of water on the building a additional pieces of equipment took up positions on three sides and battled the fire from ground level.
Within minutes, most of the warehouse burned to the ground, leaving a small section nearest Benhill Avenue standing.
Firefighters sprayed water on the tops of nearby warehouses to prevent sparks from setting their roofs on fire.
Some firefighters had to stop work for several minutes until utility crews could cut off power to overhead utility wires along railroad tracks. The wires were burning and threatening to fall on the firefighters.
Many of the streets near the burning warehouse were blocked by fire equipment, and vehicle traffic was diverted by police.