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Fire in Downtown Maryland Hotel Kills 1; Cause Under Investigation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One person died Saturday night in a blaze that gutted a room on the top floor of the six-story downtown Maryland Hotel at Sixth Avenue and F Street.

A San Diego Fire Department spokeswoman said that the fire, which was reported at 8:35 p.m., was confined to a single room of the hotel, which formerly was a retirement hotel and still houses a large number of elderly residents.

One 14-year resident of the 78-year-old hotel, Helen Cassell, said that the building has had several fires in recent months and a major fire in July, 1988.

Fire investigators were called to the scene immediately but said that the cause of Saturday’s fire would not be known for at least 8 hours.

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One elderly resident, who collapsed while being evacuated from her room to the lobby of the hotel, was given first aid at the scene and taken by ambulance to a hospital. Her relatives identified her as 69-year-old Frances Mead and said that she was forced by the fire to walk downstairs--something which she was not supposed to do because of her heart condition.

In the 1988 fire, which also started on the sixth floor, the 285-room hotel was evacuated and residents from the upper floors were taken to emergency shelters, where many were housed for several weeks until the $1 million in damage was repaired.

In Saturday’s fire, firefighters said, there was little damage to the interior of the building and smoke damage was minimal.

About 50 elderly residents were moved from their rooms to the lobby of the hotel until smoke could be cleared from the building.

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A hotel official said that several small fires had occurred in the hotel this year but that none of them had been blamed on the condition of the building. The hotel, formerly a retirement home, has been partially converted to a transient hotel, he said.

The name of the fire victim has not been released.


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