The worst motel fire in Ocean City’s history took place on June 12, 1988 at the Beachcomber Motel on 12th Street and Edgewater Avenue. It was Senior Week and the motel was full of high school and college kids. In those days sprinklers were not required in buildings under five stories tall; the Beachcomber was only three stories high and not sprinklered.
The alarm came in at 3:19 a.m. and first arriving firefighters found fire shooting from windows on the third floor and moving fast. People were trapped and began jumping into a trash dumpster below. One man dropped his one-year-old baby, which was rescued by a police officer. The baby was safe, but the father jumped and hit the side of the dumpster. He was flown to Shock Trauma in Baltimore with serious injuries. Two girls died in the fire while 14 others suffered serious injuries. Most of the occupants escaped with just the clothes they were wearing.
The fire was labeled suspicious – there was talk that kids had been “fireballing” (spitting high proof alcohol on an open flame), but that was never proven. No one was ever charged and the case remains unsolved today.
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