Apartment dweller, 2 businesses displaced by fire on Church Alley

CHESTERTOWN — Citing two separate areas of origin in an apartment in the rear of the building, the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal is preliminarily reporting that a Sept. 27 fire at 103 Church Alley was deliberately set.
The fire “has been classified as incendiary,” the OSFM stated in a Sept. 28 news release.
The tenant was home at the time of the fire, according to the news release. He was assisted out of the building by bystanders and Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company Chief John “Otis” Darling.
According to a post on the Chestertown VFC Facebook page, the tenant was transported by ambulance to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.
Information on his condition was not available.
No other injuries were reported.
The multi-use building houses Open Doors Partners in Education, a nonprofit that provides free and reduced-cost literacy tutoring to children and adults in Kent County and surrounding areas, and Kit-Care Construction.
Due to smoke damage, both businesses have relocated.
Kit-Care Construction is now operating out of space nearby in the 200-block of High Street.
Julie Blyman, associate director, said Open Doors is continuing to see its students in space that has been offered by its partners in the community. She said there has been an outpouring of generosity from the community.
It was Blyman who called 911 on Wednesday, Sept. 27 after seeing smoke coming from the apartment area in the rear of the building.
“I thought I smelled something weird and went out into the hallway,” Blyman said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I walked back toward the apartment, definitely smelled smoke. … It was hazy, smoky,” she said.
Blyman said she never saw flames.
She called 911 at 2:08 p.m.
Chief Darling, who happened to be in the downtown Chestertown area, was the first on the scene, arriving in the fire company’s utility vehicle.
Chestertown VFC was the primary responding agency.
Assisting were firefighters from Millington, Betterton, Rock Hall, Church Hill and Crumpton.
Other responders included Kent-Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad, Kent EMS and the Chestertown Police Department.
According to the Chestertown VFC Facebook post, Delmarva Power shut off electric service to the building and Chestertown Utilities responded to turn off the water because there was damaged plumbing.
Firefighters used the hydrant near the wrought iron fence surrounding the county courthouse.
The fire was placed under control at 2:51 p.m.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Chestertown VFC equipment and personnel were back in the fire station.
According to Chief Darling, a fire marshal responded to the scene on Wednesday, Sept. 27 and three fire marshals were there Thursday.
The fire marshal’s office and the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation online records identified Richard Cookerly of Chestertown as the property owner.

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