Fire at Crown Farm Under Investigation
By Sonya Burke
The Town Courier
May 31, 2011
It took 65 Montgomery County firefighters almost 45 minutes to knock down the bulk of a blaze in a historically designated section of the Crown Farm development site at 9800 Fields Road at 1:23 a.m. on May 30.
Fire Captain Oscar Garcia said when firefighters arrived in the middle of the night a large barn was fully engulfed in flames. He said the 50-feet by 75-feet structure was used for the storage of hay. Several other structures were also damaged.
Assistant City Manager Greg Ossont toured the site on May 31 with staff and said a total of four buildings, including the dairy barn and hay barn, were all destroyed in the Memorial Day fire. Ossont said the concrete silos were also damaged and a structural engineer is being consulted to determine if the silos are in danger of collapse.
According to Garcia, damage is estimated at over $100,000 and the exact cause of the blaze has not been determined.
When the sun came up on Memorial Day, Garcia said fire investigators canvassed the adjacent neighborhoods looking for eyewitnesses. He said officials are asking anyone who might have seen something to call the fire and explosive tip line at 240.777.2263.
“Gaithersburg: Then and Now” author Shaun Curtis visited the site the morning after the fire and he put up some photographs of the aftermath on his website: www.gaithersburghistory.com.
“When I showed up yesterday morning at 8 a.m. the developer was surveying the damage with the firefighters,” Curtis said. “I just hope nothing like this ever happens to the old Crown farmhouse, which was not damaged by the fire.”
The city’s elected officials were officially notified of the fire in an email sent out by a lieutenant in the city’s police department about noon on May 30.
Ossont said the fire originated on a 2-½ acre historic site, known as the farmstead, that is scheduled to be dedicated to the city in the future for a park. Other nearby buildings, including the Heeter-Crown House, log house, smoke house and small garages were not damaged in the blaze, he said.
According to Ossont, a police report was filed a few weeks ago when someone broke into the historic Crown house and he noted that the area has been a target of graffiti vandals as well.