Resort Hotel Fire Classified As Accidental

OCEAN CITY — An early morning fire at the historic Atlantic Hotel on the Boardwalk at Wicomico Street on Monday was accidental and started in a ground-floor laundry room.

Shortly after 4 a.m. on Monday, the Ocean City fire and police departments responded to the Atlantic Hotel on the Boardwalk for a report of smoke coming from the building. Upon arrival, Ocean City Fire Department crews observed a significant amount of smoke coming from the historic hotel’s ground floor. First responders and hotel employees immediately began evacuating guests from the building while firefighters worked to control the fire.

Approximately 80 units were evacuated during the incident. However, no injuries were reported and the damage to the hotel was minimal. While the fire department quickly extinguished the fire, crews remained on scene until about 7:15 a.m. Hotel guests were allowed to re-enter their units once fire crews left the scene. Baltimore Avenue was closed in the area of the hotel for about an hour, although the traffic impact was minimal because of the time of day.

The on-scene investigation revealed the fire originated in the hotel’s ground floor laundry room. The fire has been classified as accidental, caused by the self-heating of cotton linens. The original Atlantic Hotel was built in 1875 and was one of the first in a series of grand Boardwalk hotels that jumpstarted Ocean City’s hospitality industry.

The original hotel stretched from Baltimore Ave. to the Boardwalk and extended a full block from north to south. Monday’s early morning fire was minor compared to the major blaze that completely destroyed the Atlantic Hotel and much of the downtown area in 1925.

In December 1925, the great Ocean City fire destroyed three entire blocks of old downtown along with the pier. The fire began at a utility company building and was fanned by a northwest wind, spreading the flames that consumed the Atlantic Hotel, the pier, two blocks of the Boardwalk, Dolle’s Candyland, the old Casino Theater and other structures.

After the fire, the Atlantic Hotel was rebuilt in 1926 and has been owned and operated by the Purnell family ever since. It retains that early Ocean City architectural charm while including many modern amenities.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.