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High-rise fire produces hero, 74


A four-alarm fire yesterday evening sent scores of residents scurrying from a Towson high-rise, where a 74-year-old resident who walks the floors daily for exercise was credited with averting a possible tragedy in discovering the blaze.

Remarkably, Baltimore County police and fire officials said, no serious injury resulted from the fire at the 14-story Dulaney Towers condominiums, on Smeton Place overlooking the Towsontown Center mall.

Four elderly residents were taken to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center for chest pains and shortness of breath, said Battalion Chief Patrick Kelly. Their names and conditions were not available last night.

The blaze began in a 10th-floor apartment whose residents were out of town, neighbors said.

The first alarm was sounded at 5:35 p.m., and more than 150 firefighters with about 60 pieces of equipment were dispatched over the next 40 minutes.

The firefighters not only battled the blaze, but also helped calm ,, residents -- many of them directed to stay on outside balconies to await rescue if it proved necessary. About 75 residents were taken by Fire Department buses to the Towson Sheraton Hotel, where they were lodged for the night.

Police and fire investigators credited Thomas W. Rigney, 74, president of the condominium association, with calling the Fire Department and banging on doors to alert other residents.

"I walk the halls of every floor every day, and I was on the 10th floor when I smelled the smoke coming from [unit] 1006," Mr. Rigney said. "I ran and called 911 and got another resident and opened 1006. . . . It was chock full of smoke. I slammed the door shut so the fire wouldn't get more oxygen and started letting people know by banging on their doors."

"Don't blow this up," Mr. Rigney said. "I fought Golden Gloves down in Virginia in 1934 and owned a construction company 45 years in Waverly. I guess I still got it."

OC The cause of the blaze remained under investigation last night.

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