Fire Causes $3.5M in Damage to Washington College Building in Ch - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Fire Causes $3.5M in Damage to Washington College Building in Chestertown

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The IT building at Washington College is shown Saturday night. (Photo: Assistant Chief Dan Diaz of Camden-Wyoming Fire Company. The IT building at Washington College is shown Saturday night. (Photo: Assistant Chief Dan Diaz of Camden-Wyoming Fire Company.

CHESTERTOWN, Md.- The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating a weekend fire at Washington College in Chestertown.

Officials said the flames broke out Saturday night at an IT building leased by the college at 515 Washington Ave.

Fire officials said an employee from a nearby business discovered the fire.

Local fire departments were dispatched to the fire just before 8 p.m. Officials said it took more than 80 firefighters two and half hours to control the four-alarm fire.

Officials say four firefighters sustained minor illness and injuries during fire suppression. All have been treated and released from medical attention.

According to the investigators, the fire destroyed the unoccupied building and everything in it, leaving the estimated damages around $3.5 million.

The State Fire Marshal's Office confirmed to WBOC that a smoldering discarded cigarette thrown in a dispenser began the fire, which spread to nearby mulch, then vegetation, and then the building.

On Monday, WBOC caught up with the man who first called police, and worked to try and put the fire out as it spread.  Umair Mir, night shift manager at College Heights Citgo, said he first saw the fire when it was just a plume of smoke coming from the bushes.

"By the time I got over with the bucket, the fire was on the roof.  It was catching on the roof so I thought this is going to work.  So I run back and get the fire extinguisher and I did what I was supposed to.  But the fire kept moving," said Mir.

Washington College leased the building and used it as a business office and as their IT office, according to college Vice President for Finance and Administration Mark Hampton.

"This is the building where our comptroller's office was, where payroll, accounts payable, student accounting, as well as a lot of our networking infrastructure and back office IT operations were housed," Hampton said. "This is the building where most students paid their bills so this is a building familiar to most college students."

Hampton said the bulk of the documents in the building have digital backups. He said the business office scanned every document they received and uploaded it to a digital cloud.  They still plan to open the school's doors on time in two weeks.

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