An unidentified 47-year-old man became the city's first fire victim of 1991 early today.
Another tenant of the apartment building in the 800 block of Washington Blvd. was hospitalized for smoke inhalation and three others escaped the flames uninjured, a fire official said.
Capt. Paul Geoghegan of the fire investigation bureau said careless smoking caused the fire, which broke out in a second-floor apartment occupied by two people. The dead man lived on the third floor at 878 Washington Blvd.
Geoghegan said that shortly after Ira Russell, 45, and Doris Meary, 60, retired for the night, the fire broke out, reportedly in the sofa in their living room.
The fire was reported at 1:27 a.m., Geoghegan said.
He said the fire quickly raced through the living room and up a stairway, where it caused extensive damage to the apartment of the man who died. His burned body was found on the bedroom floor.
The investigator said it appeared the victim was overcome by smoke and fell to the floor while attempting to reach the door.
"Everything in his apartment was burned, including the clothes he was wearing," Geoghegan said.
He said the victim's bedroom was destroyed and that nothing was salvaged that could lead his identification.
"People in the building knew him by various first names," said Geoghegan, "but no one knew his full name or if he had relatives here."
He said area residents were to be interviewed today in an effort to learn the man's identity.
Geoghegan said that when the first of some 40 firefighters manning 10 pieces of equipment arrived on the scene they found Russell, Meary and another resident, Jack Hooley, 40, who also lived on the third floor, standing on the street. They were not injured.
After learning that others were believed to be in the burning building, several firefighters battled the flames and dense smoke and went to the third floor, where they rescued another resident, David Reedy, 25.
Reedy was carried to safety, then was taken by ambulance to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he is being treated for smoke inhalation.
A spokeswoman for the hospital's emergency room said Reedy was listed in guarded but stable condition.
Geoghegan said the fire caused an estimated $5,000 damage to the building's contents and another $30,000 to the structure itself.
No injuries were reported to firefighters.