Barbecue starts 2-alarm fire

The Baltimore Sun

A Memorial Day barbecue ignited a blaze that severely damaged two townhouses in White Marsh yesterday and sent two firefighters to hospitals with minor injuries and heat exhaustion, the Baltimore County Fire Department said.

The two-alarm fire started about 1 p.m. in the 5000 block of Kemsley Court when a propane grill on a third-floor deck caught fire, exploded and sent flames onto a neighboring house, fire officials said.

It took 24 firefighters, eight engines and three trucks about an hour and a half to quell the flames, fire officials said. None of the homes' occupants was injured. Their identities were not available last night.

The firefighters were taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Franklin Square Hospital Center with injuries that were not life-threatening, fire officials said.

Mark Chou, who lives a block down from the unit where the fire began, said he heard a loud explosion, followed by a smaller one. Neighbors, fearing it was a gas main explosion, rushed into the streets, he said.

"And all you could see was this black smoke in the sky," Chou said.

Neighbor Noel Posavec was out to lunch with her family when the fire began. She was on her way home about 1:30 p.m. and saw a black plume of smoke.

"We could see the flames from Philadelphia Road as we were driving up, and I thought it was my house," she said. "I have a 2-year-old son and I'm pregnant, so [had we been home] it would not have been a good thing for us."

When she drove up, she said the front of the three-story homes looked fine: A broken window and some light smoke stains were the only clues that something had happened.

But when she got to her patio and looked at the back of the townhouses, she said, she saw that the fire had melted the siding off the top two floors of the unit where the fire began. The back half of the roof was also gone, she said.

Hours later, neighbors were still talking about how something like this could happen.

"It's a very quiet place," Chou said. "Nothing like this happened here. I think everyone's just kind of in shock about how fast the fire spread. They're just kind of overwhelmed."

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