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Fire destroys building, displacing residents

Mike Persley

(12/2) A fire that destroyed several apartments and a liquor store Wednesday has left several people without homes.

The fire consumed the entire top floor of the building at 150 S. Seton Ave., which held six apartments, and Paul’s Pit Discount Beer, Wine and Liquor on its first floor.

Dennis Ryder, who lives in the building, said he was watching television when he heard screams coming from the hallway. When he opened his door, a large cloud of black smoke began pouring into his living room.

Ryder said he couldn’t see in front of him, and he had to use the railing of the stairwell to find his way out of the building.

Dennis Ryder’s brother, James, lives in the apartment next to his. He uses a walker to get around because of injuries he suffered because of a stroke. James was stuck in his apartment when an officer, later confirmed to be Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy 1st Class Ben Whitehouse, broke into the apartment and carried him down the stairs.

Whitehouse told firefighters that he was driving down Seton Avenue when he saw a cashier from the liquor store outside screaming for help, according to Wayne Powell, spokesman for the Vigilant Hose Co. in Emmitsburg.

The women told him that a man was stuck inside and he ran into the building to help him, he said.

Fire officials have not given the total number of people displaced, but none of the apartments are habitable, according to Mike Dmuchowski, battalion chief for the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services.

Units from Frederick and Carroll counties, along with Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania, arrived on the scene around 2:45 p.m. They found heavy smoke and fire coming from the building’s second floor, above the liquor store. They entered the building with hoses and checked to see if anyone was still inside.

Several windows were busted out to let the fire breathe, said Dmuchowski, who confirmed that the fire was under control by about 3:20 p.m.

The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage are being investigated. The majority of the damage was on the second floor, he said.

Neeta Pansuriya, who owns the liquor store, said that the majority of the damage to the store was done by water. She thinks there is enough money to survive for a while, but she will have to call her insurance company.

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs said the town will organize resources to help those affected by the fire in the coming days. Funds donated by the Emmitsburg Council of Churches will be given to help the victims buy food, clothing and security deposits. The Red Cross has been called to help in the meantime, he said.

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