Small fire sends smoke into terminal at BWI, causing a flight to be delayed


A small fire in an elevator shaft at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday sent smoke pouring into the passenger terminal.

State police said no one was injured, but the fire caused an American Airlines flight to be delayed because it had to be moved to another part of the airport due to the smoke. The fire, which occurred at the height of the evening passenger rush, started about 5:30 p.m. and was extinguished 20 minutes later.

Trooper Gerry W. Kehs said last night that the cause of the fire was an apparent electrical short-circuit in the ground-level machinery that controls a freight elevator. The short-circuit rendered the freight elevator, an employee elevator and an escalator inoperable. Fire damage was minimal, said BWI spokeswoman Adrienne Walker-Pittman.

Smoke shot up the elevator shaft and into the terminal near the security entrance to the Pier C passenger terminal. The freight elevator is located next to a elevator used by employees to get to the runway areas, the operations center and the tower.

Trooper Kehs said passengers were able to use Pier C as firefighters worked to put out the fire. "It worked out real well," he said. "We just moved them to one side."

No one panicked, but police said some passengers were concerned.

"They didn't know what it was," Trooper Kehs said. "First they smelled smoke, then they saw smoke."

Firefighters from BWI and many surrounding communities sent equipment to the scene, as is common when an incident occurs at the airport near Linthicum, police said.

Also, many security doors had to be left open to air out rooms, so additional troopers were called in to guard entryways to sensitive areas. The control tower was not affected.

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