A historic mansion in the Highlands was destroyed by fire

Firefighters in Baltimore City Authorities battled a major fire at an abandoned mansion in West Baltimore late Monday night.

Units were dispatched around 5:30 p.m. to the 5000 block of Old Frederick Road, where a three-alarm fire had set a vacant mansion on fire in the Uplands neighborhood, according to fire officials.

“Due to the intensity of the fire and the size of the (building) structure, the incident commander requested a second fire alarm and then a third,” said Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Fire Department. “After surveying the site, we needed more manpower as the fire grew.” He added that about 100 firefighters, paramedics, and 35 equipment were present at the scene.

Water from hand lines, observation pipes and main streams was used to extinguish the fire. At approximately 9:45 p.m., Cartwright said there were no longer visible flames, but fire officials will continue to douse the burning remains to ensure no more fires occur.

No cause has been identified. Cartwright added that there were no injuries among the firefighters.

According to Baltimore Heritage, Inc., a city non-profit organization dedicated to historic and architectural preservation, the Victorian mansion was the 42-room summer home of former Baltimore social philanthropist Mary Fricke Jacobs. She left the estate to the Episcopal Church after her death in 1936, and it became the Uplands Home for women of the church between 1952 and 1986.

New Psalm Baptist Church eventually acquired the property in the early 1990s before making the decision to move in 2004, leaving it vacant in the middle of the Uplands neighborhood.

David Smallwood, president of Uplands Community Association Inc., said he was not surprised such a large fire occurred because he has seen people regularly congregate on the property over the past few years.

He said he recently asked city housing code enforcement officials and Baltimore Police Southwest District officers to join him and neighborhood residents at the upcoming association meeting in November to address trespassing issues.

Housing and police officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

“This was a tragedy waiting to happen. We (the association) have been talking about this over the past few years with the city and the police department. We’ve watched people come and go on the property and on school days, we’d see kids going there doing I don’t know what,” Smallwood said. “I feel frustrated now because we were trying to tell them (officials) that this is out of control.”

Residents have long complained about the danger that vacant homes can cause. The NAACP headquarters in Baltimore was damaged after a fire in a vacant building next door earlier this month. Baltimore lost two firefighters after they battled a blaze nearly two weeks ago in northwest Baltimore.

Smallwood said he was thankful no first responders were injured Monday night.

“I just want to say I’m glad no firefighter lives were lost and none of those fires or their embers got to the residents” on Ben Lucey or Old Frederick roads, Smallwood said. “As large as this fire was, it could have been much more catastrophic.”


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