Three young boys were arrested and charged with arson last night after a two-alarm fire gutted an abandoned row house and damaged two occupied homes in the 1300 block of North Fremont Avenue in West Baltimore.
City police said witnesses identified the boys, a 12-year-old and two 13-year-olds, who allegedly climbed through an open window of the vacant house, No. 1354. The boys were charged as juveniles and released to the custody of their parents.
Fire officials said the boys apparently used matches to start a fire about 7 p.m. in the rear of the first floor of a three-story row house that has remained vacant and boarded up for several years.
The red-painted house crumbled quickly in the heat, its floors collapsing as flames shot from the roof and windows. The fire scorched the roofs and singed the walls of the occupied homes on either side of the vacant house, fire officials said.
William C. Jackson, 16, a resident of one of the damaged homes, said he became frightened when he saw the flames next door. "It was scary," he said. "Everything was pink and in flames. The first thing I thought was, get the people out."
The Harlem Park Middle School student ran to the second floor of his house and yelled to his mother and her boyfriend, John Thatcher, to leave. "I didn't even smell the smoke," Mr. Thatcher said.
William Jackson said the boys had set small fires in the neighborhood several times. But last night, the toll was much greater. Sunday afternoon the same boys allegedly started a small fire in trash on a lot behind the vacant house. Firefighters were called and extinguished that blaze, too.
Shortly before last night's house fire, a blaze was started in a discarded mattress behind the vacant house. William Jackson said he and some friends dragged the mattress into the alley and doused the flames with water.
Carl Zimmerman, one of 60 firefighters who fought last night's blaze, was cut on the forehead when the rear of the vacant building collapsed. He was treated at the scene.