Vacant Factory Fire Threatens Kingsville Neighborhood, Arson Suspected
Emergency crews responded to a fire on Woodberry Place Monday afternoon.
UPDATE (3:36 p.m., Sept. 11)—The vacant factory fire in Kingsville "rekindled" on Tuesday. Find more details here.
UPDATE (5:30 p.m., Sept. 10)—Franklinville is one of Kingsville's oldest and most prestigious neighborhoods. But on Monday afternoon, residents had one major concern—making sure flames from a vacant factory stayed as far away as possible from their historic homes.
At about 3:35 p.m. on Sept. 10, heavy smoke began billowing from the former Belko factory near the corner of Jericho Road and Woodberry Place, Baltimore County Fire Department officials confirmed.
Around 10 engines from Baltimore and Harford County responded. There was nothing of value inside the structure and firefighters battled the blaze from the outside only. No injuries were reported, according to Battalion Chief Paul Lurz.
As of 5 p.m., flames in the interior of the factory were knocked, and crews focused mainly on the still-smoking roof. The fire may have begun in an elevator shaft of the structure and arson is suspected, he said.
The Belko plant closed several years ago and, at one point, produced lacrosse balls, according to fire department spokesman Lt. Paul Massarelli.
The original structure, however, traces its roots to a cotton mill that opened in 1884. The first cotton mill burned in 1881, according to historic "Village of Franklinville" signage.
A large sign inside the factory's property stated that it is now managed and maintained by the Baltimore-based Carnegie Express construction company. A chain link fence surrounds it.
Several residents told Patch that while the structure holds historic significance, it has also become a hang-out for teenage vandals, who they believe drink and use drugs on the property.
Meanwhile, the quaint neighborhood, with clusters of homes ranging from 100 to 200 years old, has grown increasingly frustrated.
Resident Dan Watson said he's begun to expect issues at the vacant plant. "That place catches fire every year. There's a lot of vandalism," Watson said.
"It's gone on for the past six to seven years—mostly teenagers go in there," added homeowner Tom Wayman.
Resident Kim Ellis said she has witnessed at least three recent fires occur inside the structure. When she saw smoke on Monday afternoon, she expected the worst.
"I was worried. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, was it somebody's house?' I thought that it could spread. There are a lot of trees," Ellis said.
Fire officials were not immediately available to comment on past fires or vandalism at the structure.
Patt Henry, who owns a 200-year-old home directly adjacent to the factory, said Monday's incident was a repeat of another severe fire in 2008.
Afterward, Henry said she assisted in getting a petition signed in favor of the vacant factory's total demolition. The petition has gained the support of the Greater Kingsville Civic Association, she said.
"We don't care anymore about its historic significance. We need to protect our house. Back in 2008, our fence was burning," Henry said. "The owners said they'd take care of it, but they're absent."