Fire in high-rise hospitalizes 3 smoking blamed

November 09, 1990|By Frank D. Roylance and William B. Talbott | Frank D. Roylance and William B. Talbott,Evening Sun Staff Robert Hilson Jr. and Bruce Reid contributed to this story.

Three people were hospitalized today, one in critical condition, after a three-alarm fire broke out on the 10th floor of a high-rise apartment house for the elderly at 20th Street and Maryland Avenue.

Fire investigators blamed careless smoking for the fire, which began on a small sofa in a 10th-floor apartment on the south side of the 18-story West Twenty Apartments.

A woman identified as Rose Brooks, 80, who lived in the 10th-floor apartment where the fire began, was found unconscious in the hallway. She was revived by firefighters and taken to Homewood Hospital, formerly North Charles General, where she was reported in critical but stable condition, with burns and smoke inhalation.

Hurlan Davis, 64, was reported in serious condition at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore with smoke inhalation.

A third resident, James Stanley, 70, was reported in good condition at University of Maryland Medical Center undergoing treatment for smoke inhalation.

About 400 people live in the building's 340 apartments. Scores were forced from their apartments by smoke from the fire. Many made their way down from upper floors through smoke-filled stairwells. Others retreated to balconies or the roof.

"It scared me to death, coming down those stairs," said Hilda Banks, 79, who was in her bed on the ninth floor when fire bells woke her up.

"When I opened the fire door, the people were coming down the stairs, screaming and hollering," she said. "It was scary, because I heard people hollering and I thought the fire was coming behind them."

She took refuge in an eighth-floor hallway that was clear of smoke until firefighters could take her to the lobby in an elevator.

Fire Department spokesman Capt. Patrick P. Flynn said the 7:20 a.m. fire was under control by 8:30 a.m.

A number of residents were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene and at Homewood Hospital. About 40 more were bused to a school at 221 W. 21st St. in an effort to make them comfortable.

Fire damage, estimated at $90,000, was confined to the apartment where it began, with smoke and water damage elsewhere.

Fire officials said extensive fire training helped residents avoid undue confusion, panic and injuries.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke visited the scene this morning and said residents were "very lucky; they can count their blessings and thank God for the Fire Department."

He said city health and housing officials would provide residents with whatever assistance they need.

A city fire truck responding to the fire collided with a Ford Bronco at Maryland Avenue and 23rd Street. The Bronco rolled over, but no one was seriously hurt, police said.

A second fire broke out a little later on the roof of the east Court House building in the 100 block of N. Calvert St. when a "tar pot" being used by roofers caught fire. The 8 a.m. fire sent smoke throughout the four-story structure.

The second fire was under control within 15 minutes. No injuries were reported.

The rush-hour fires disrupted traffic on Maryland Avenue, 20th Street, lower Calvert Street and Guilford Avenue.

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