BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A massive fire in Hagerstown has forced more than 70 people from their apartments Tuesday night. It started right after a thunderstorm rolled through.
Residents say the fire started right after the building was hit by lightning, and they watched for 30 minutes while the fire department was unable to get enough water on the flames.
“It was just horrific. I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Shawn Lohr, who lives across from the complex.
“We heard the lightning hit, but I thought it hit outside on the pavement, and then the next thing I know, the alarm went off,” said Roxie Vickers, who lives in the apartments.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office confirms the fire was caused by a lightning strike, and all residents of the apartment have been accounted for.
It was just after 8 p.m., when the storms rolled through Hagerstown, and the Woodbridge North Apartments went up in flames.
“In a matter of 15-20 minutes, it was the whole roof, gone,” one resident said.
“The fire actually started on one section, and within about ten minutes, it just went the whole way across the roof,” Funkstown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Eric Frailey said.
“I saw the lightning bolt and heard it. Then, my television instantly got fried,” said Helen Smith, who lives in complex and was inside when fire started. “I opened my back door and I saw the flames. It spread quickly and I still had two of my cats inside the building. We’ve only found one right now.”
“The heat was so intense, you could feel it from our sliding glass door,” Lohr said. “It was just chaos and the looks on their faces we’re just horrible. You could see the fear.”
The 911 calls were answered, but the fire department ran into a problem.
“We were really disgusted with the fire department,” Vickers said. “They had no water pressure for the first 30 minutes of the fire.”
“It took a while for them to get water, and by that time, it spread the whole way, to the rest of the apartment complex,” a resident said.
The Hagerstown Fire Department confirms they ran into a problem with resources once they arrived.
“That impacted a lot with getting the ladder pipes in place with the outer trucks to fight the fire,” Frailey said. “We ended up having to call in tankers to adjust for that water pressure loss. But then they did get water up and running, and we were able to get the fire knocked down.
So in all, more than 70 people living in the 37 unit building have either lost their homes or been forced out by that fire, though no one was injured.
Officials say one person was taken to the hospital but was released shortly after.
The fire department is still on the scene to determine why there wasn’t enough water in that part of southeast Hagerstown.
The Red Cross is on scene to assist those impacted by the fire.