Fire at Germantown YWCA ruled arson

GERMANTOWN - October 14, 2010

Two firefighters were injured putting out this fire. One suffered a wrist injury the other smoke inhalation.

Someone started the fire in a third floor closet just after 5:00 p.m. Wednesday with flames spreading into the ceiling and walls.

Once it was out investigators quickly ruled it an arson.

"Our police department did usher some folks that were in there, some squatters who were in there, over the last week or so. We believe that could possibly be a part of that," said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

The YWCA is reportedly the third oldest YWCA in the world and the first to integrate before the civil rights movement.

Once a pillar of the neighborhood, the building has become an eyesore in recent years.

"I think it's a shame. I really do. They should have opened the Y back up and used it for something instead of letting vagrants go in there and start fires," said Brenda Rogers.

"It was a very nice place. I used to swim over there, different activities," said Jewel Austin. "Just a nice place."

The Y is owned by Germantown Settlement, described as a multi-human service agency run by Emmanuel Freeman - and now in bankruptcy.

The non-profit bought the property in 2006 with the help of the Redevelopment Authority under the Mayor John Street.

But the building sat vacant and unused and continued to fall into disrepair.

"It's sad that it happened. It's really sad because it could have been a really nice place," said Austin.

The future of the building may become more clear next week when a final hearing is scheduled in bankruptcy court.

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