Fire Marshal: Discarded Cigarette Causes $1M Cherry Hill Blaze

CHERRY HILL — A tenant’s discarded cigarette outside his third-story apartment sparked a blaze that caused $1 million in damage to the complex and displaced him and 19 other tenants Thursday afternoon, authorities reported.

Brinton Davis, the tenant of the top-floor apartment, reported the fire on the exterior deck/fire escape of his apartment about 2:42 p.m., according to the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal.

He reportedly told investigators that he had discarded a cigarette in a homemade ashtray constructed of a wood stump, and returned later to find the wooden exterior on fire.

About 75 firefighters from a variety of fire companies in Cecil County, Pennsylvania and Delaware responded to the three-alarm blaze at 273 Cherry Hill Road, which lies just east of the Route 213 “Lanzi” traffic circle. Because of the lack of fire hydrants, the Tanker Task Force was activated to bring water to the scene.

According to emergency communications, firefighters initially attempted to fight the fire from the interior of the building but were forced to evacuate as the blaze intensified. The fire had already destroyed the top floor of structure within the first hour, and it took responding crews another two hours to fully bring it under control, according to the fire marshal’s office.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was transported by emergency medical services for evaluation. Another firefighter suffered a minor injury and refused treatment on scene, according to the fire marshal’s office.

In total, the blaze caused an estimated $1 million in damage, split evenly between the structure and its contents. Fire marshals listed the owner of the property as Watts Property Inc.

Smoke alarms were present and operating at the complex, but the 86-year-old building did not have sprinklers, according to the fire marshal’s office.

Twenty occupants of the complex, which has seven units, five of which are two-bedroom units, have been displaced and are being assisted by Red Cross.

At the scene, one tenant of a top-floor apartment was overwhelmed, falling into the embrace of a neighbor, who was glad she and her dog escaped.

Source: By Jane Bellmyer Cecil Daily