On Sunday, February 18, 1990, a natural gas explosion and subsequent fire in a motel in Hagerstown, Maryland caused the deaths of four guests and minor injuries to ten others. At approximately 5:20 a.m. two guests reported the smell of gas to the hotel desk clerk. The clerk then confirmed that there was a gas leak, called the gas company, and attempted to stop the gas that was escaping. Neither the gas company nor the clerk called the fire department, and the building alarm was not activated until after the explosion occurred at about 5:30. Hagerstown Fire Department investigators determined that the fire was accidental, and the result of a leaking natural gas valve on a hot water heater.
Three of the four fatalities occurred in rooms affected by the explosion, and the fourth victim was found in a corridor about 35 feet from the area of the explosion. Even though the building was damaged by the gas explosion and subsequent fire, the interior fire-rated walls maintained tenable conditions sufficiently long to allow over 90% of the occupants to escape without assistance from firefighters. NFPA members can download the full investigation report and all site visitors can download a summary in Spanish.