Fire damages building next to Rose Street Community Center

A fire damaged a vacant building next to the Rose Street Community Center in East Baltimore Saturday night, and the founder of the center said the incident left it with serious water and roof damage.

Baltimore City Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Skinner said firefighters responded to the blaze at 823 N. Rose St. about 5:40 p.m. Saturday and found a fire burning from the first and second floors of the two-story vacant building.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control by 6:26 p.m. There were no injuries, Skinner said. The cause of the fire is under investigation, she said.

Clayton Guyton, founder and co-director of the community center in the Madison East End neighborhood, said the group’s building at 821 N. Rose St. suffered extensive water damage and damage to the roof, doors and windows.

He estimated it could take months to repair and be able to use the building, but said he expects to run the center’s programs temporarily from another of the group’s buildings, at 819 N. Rose Street.

“We will be out there cleaning up debris tomorrow... We’re not going to miss a beat,” said Guyton.

The center offers services to neighborhood residents, as well as food and bus fare, and helps ex-offenders find work and housing. It also runs shelters, in other buildings, for men and women and children.

People who receive services volunteer to clean streets and alleys five or six days a week. Teenagers involved in a youth program help out with the cleanup on Saturdays and are offered mentoring support. People gather in the center to talk and watch TV and bring their children to play, he said.

Besides the fire’s physical damage to the center, “the impact is more emotional because people feel a part of that center,” Guyton said. “They feel very close to it. They feel like it’s home.”

Mayor Catherine Pugh tweeted about the fire Saturday, saying “All community center staff & nearby residents are safe.” The mayor noted that the community center would still open on Sunday, with a morning crew gathering to clean surrounding sidewalks and streets.

Guyton said the mayor called him after the fire.

“We were very appreciative of that,” he said. “It lifted our spirits.”

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