Hagerstown Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven said fire consumed much of the fourth and fifth floors of the 21 W. Antietam St. building, which has been vacant for years.
At the scene Friday afternoon, DeHaven said city building code officials were inspecting the charred structure to see if it was safe to re-enter for further investigation.
“I’m waiting to hear what they’re going to say,” he said. “As far as (the fire department), we’re done for the day. We’re about to oversee the building being secured up at the street level. All the fire department units have left.”
As of about 2:30 p.m. Friday, West Antietam Street between Summit Avenue and South Potomac Street was closed to thru-traffic, and will remain closed “for an undetermined about of time due to the instability of the structure ... as a result of the fire,” according to an email from Washington County Emergency Services personnel.
“The city is probably going to keep that road closed for about a week,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said Friday evening. Structural engineers had looked at the building and determined the roof was unstable could pose a public safety hazard, he said.
That work could begin Saturday when a contractor arrives, Gysberts said.
“I don’t think they’re going to demolish the whole building,” Gysberts said, but the roof and portions of the upper floors might have to be removed.
Yellow caution tape cordoned off the street and sidewalks in front of the building as city workers were seen securing the front door about 3:30 p.m.
Motorists can still access the West Antietam Street public parking lot from Summit Avenue, but the road is blocked to all right-turning traffic from South Potomac Street.
No injuries were reported in the incident, but the cause of the blaze and estimated amount of damages are still undetermined, DeHaven said.
“We were able to get in and do an initial evaluation, but we’ve got a lot of people to interview yet,” he said. “It’s not going to be an overnight thing. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of things to look at.”
DeHaven could not confirm if the vacant building had been condemned by the city, but he said it was deemed uninhabitable due to the absence of functioning utilities. No signs were posted signifying the structure was condemned, he said.
The building’s top four floors once housed apartments and the first floor previously held a variety of businesses, DeHaven said earlier Friday.
The building at 19-21-23 W. Antietam St. is owned by Fulton R. Gordon III and Gloria Mayes, whose address is listed as 8200 Kenfield Court in Bethesda, Md.
Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen A. Maher said the building itself was not denoted as historic, but it was a “contributing building” in the city’s downtown Historic District.
At one time, the building was referred to as the Mt. Vernon Apartments, Maher said, but in recent years it was known as the Snook building, after a prior owner.
The 15,000-square-foot property, built in 1914, had been valued at $512,600 as of July 1, 2012, according to the Maryland Department of Taxation and Assessment records.
Longtime Hagerstown resident and current City Councilman Donald F. Munson said the incident underscores the importance of the city’s fire department for the safety of the community.