Boy, 5, who set fire to bed dies in E. Baltimore

December 29, 1990|By Susan Schoenberger

A 5-year-old boy who was playing with matches died yesterday afternoon after setting a fire in a bedroom at his East Baltimore row house, authorities said.

Jamal Jackson, 5, set his bed on fire while playing with matches at his home in the 2000 block of Robb Street, police said. Fire officials were called to the house about 1:40 p.m. and put the flames out quickly.

Four other children who live in the house, two of Jamal's siblings and two of his cousins, escaped without injury. But firefighters found Jamal on the floor of a second-floor bathroom, where he apparently had gone to get away from the smoke. He died of smoke inhalation and cardiac arrest at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Capt. Dennis Howell said.

Frances Holden, Jamal's mother, said she was at work when the fire began. Ms. Holden said no adult was in the house with her three children, 12, 7, and 5, and her sister's two children, 9 and 3. The school-age children were on Christmas break. Ms. Holden's 12-year-old son was left in charge.

"My neighbor called me and said, 'Your house is on fire. You'd better come home,' " Ms. Holden said.

She said Jamal was a kindergartner at Cecil Elementary School.

"He was a bad little boy. He was a busybody and very mischievous," she said. "But he was sweet, too."

The fire caused about $17,000 damage to a second-floor bedroom, Captain Howell said.

Jamal's death brings to 29 the number of people who have died in fires in Baltimore this year. That is the lowest number since 1938, the first year the department began keeping track of fire deaths in the city.

City fire officials said that careless smoking caused 20 of the fire deaths. Four were caused by cooking or heating equipment, one by a natural gas explosion, one by an unknown cause and three by children playing with matches -- including Jamal's death.

Last week, two other East Baltimore children were killed in a fire that officials said began with a match. Fire officials said they suspected that one of the children lighted a match near a stuffed chair in the living room.

Carlzell Connor, 5, and Alexandrea Autry, 3, died Dec. 21 despite the efforts of rescue workers and neighbors to find them in the thick smoke.

Their mother and her two other children escaped from the house.

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