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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  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."

Evets September 10, 2012 at 10:32 PM
If it is arson, it must be the will of the people.
HLV September 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Who knew there was a factory in Kingsville dedicated to the production of lacrosse balls?
Ashley September 11, 2012 at 01:58 AM
lol I did. I was under the impression they were tearing this place down anyway. They already removed one building back in the beginning of the summer and there have been industrial dumpsters there for months.
Honeygo Hal September 11, 2012 at 12:00 PM
I've always known it as the Belko rubber plant, but I never knew what they made.
Dr I September 11, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Lacross balls were NOT produced there. Urban Legend (Though that would have been much cooler). Rubber belts and bungee cords for industry yes, not balls. Earlier in the factories life, it was a grist mill and even made sailcloth. You can find more information at MDE website as to what it made and its current status: mde.state.md.us/assets/document/Belko(1).pdf
DB September 11, 2012 at 12:35 PM
ARSON, you think? Due to the time of the fire I would be checking when the kids in the neighborhood get home from school.
Emily Kimball (Editor) September 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Find an update here: Kingsville Vacant Factory Fire 'Rekindled' Tuesday - http://patch.com/A-xFMp
Gus Mckee September 15, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Lacrosse balls were made there u tard. I kno that cuz I've seen them in there before
Gus Mckee September 15, 2012 at 01:13 PM
And some one hung them self there in the basement years ago

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