Four townhouses in Eldersburg were heavily damaged yesterday afternoon in a three-alarm fire, authorities said.
Seven residents - five adults and two young children - were displaced, but no one was injured, said Bill Rehkopf, public information officer for the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department.
Firefighters rescued a cocker spaniel and a cat from one home, he said.
Heavy smoke was coming from the rear and roof of adjacent houses at 1102 and 1104 Pennywort Circle when firefighters arrived about 1:30 p.m., Rehkopf said.
The fire quickly spread to 1100 and 1106 Pennywort, and firefighters inside the houses were evacuated, he said.
The Eldersburg dwellings had sprinklers, but yesterday's fire started on the outside, officials said.
"Indications are that the fire started outside and walked up the wall, and a little breeze helped spread it," Rehkopf said. "Then it went to the attic, where there are no sprinklers.
"Sprinklers are designed for fires inside," Rehkopf said. "When the fire starts outside and hits that siding, it's just like petroleum."
The rear of 1102 and 1104 Pennywort Circle, where the fire was believed to have started, was charred black and one roof had collapsed.
In front of the houses on a grassy hill across the parking lot, firefighters placed framed family pictures and photo albums they salvaged from 1102 and 1104 Pennywort.
Homeowners, who declined to talk, cried and hugged family members who arrived to help them. Some sifted through the pictures, assessing the damage.
Units from Baltimore and Howard counties assisted Carroll County firefighters. The state fire marshal's office is investigating the cause of the blaze, Rehkopf said.