By Brooke Schultz
Late on Sept. 3 going into the early morning of Sept. 4, the smell of fire was clear within the North Commons of Washington College. Stepping outside, white smoke was visible from the parking lot.
Less than a quarter-mile from campus, the Driftwood Inn had caught fire, causing multiple volunteer firemen from Chestertown’s Fire Department and other companies to respond to the scene.
The fire at the Driftwood Inn, located at 600 Washington Ave, was reported by members of the Chestertown Police Department, who were on routine patrol, according to the Fire Company’s press release.
“Shortly thereafter, Command 6 arrived and reported one unit fully involved with fire,” the press release on the Company’s Facebook page said on Sept. 4. “The first engine from Chestertown, Engine 6-7, responded and was short staffed with three personnel, including a driver and two firefighters.”
According to the release, the preferred number of staff is at least four. Despite being short on personnel, the three first responders stopped at a fire hydrant and “dropped a five-inch supply hose up to the fire scene,” according to the press release.
Junior Michael Luckert was one of the many students to watch the fire from campus on Saturday night. He said, “I left my room because I could smell smoke, so I was looking around, making sure it wasn’t my suite.” Luckert said that he could smell smoke in his dorm around 11:30 p.m., he and his suite-mates looked around their building before looking outside.
While one of the volunteers stayed by the hydrant, another fireman “proceeded to make a swift, aggressive exterior attack, which darkened the fire substantially,” the press release said.
Once Engine 6-7 was joined by other mutual aid companies, personnel entered the structure and more hose lines were placed in service.
The crew then made vertical ventilation –or “roof cuts” – to the structure. “This was to ensure the fire had not penetrated the roof and was spreading laterally unseen,” the release said. “Performing roof cuts also helps relieve heat and smoke trapped within the structure.”
The unit that originally caught fire was completely destroyed and, according to the release, the rooms on either side sustained “heat, smoke, and water damage.” In response to the blaze, electric and water was turned off for the entire motel. Because of the fire and power cuts, 40 guests were displaced but there were no injuries.
Chestertown Fire Company and mutual aid companies’ personnel were on the scene for about four hours, though the release said the fire was “quickly contained and declared under-control” because of the assistance of other crews.
By Brooke Schultz