Home where 3 died lacked smoke detector Officials say only 2 of 6 apartments at Ocala Ave. fire had detectors.

April 10, 1991|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Evening Sun Staff

Michelle Goode says that when she and her two children moved into an apartment at 2302 Ocala Ave. a year ago the first thing she did was ask the landlord to install a smoke detector.

The landlord agreed to her request, she said. However, as of today a smoke detector still had not been installed.

"He keeps on saying, 'Yeah, we're going to put one in there. We're going to do it soon,' " Goode said. "This has been going on for a year now."

Goode, 26, was not the only tenant in the three-story, six-apartment building that did not have a smoke detector. Her friend Ramona "Porky" Collins, 34, didn't have one in her apartment, either.

Early today, a two-alarm fire raced through Collins' first-floor apartment, killing her and her two infant sons. A third son is listed in very critical condition at Sinai Hospital.

Another tenant and her 8-year-old daughter, who had moved into the building, in the shadows of Mondawmin Mall, just last week, jumped to safety from their second-floor window. That apartment also did not have a smoke detector.

Fire officials blame the blaze on careless smoking in a front room of Collins' apartment. The officials also said that the victims could have possibly escaped unharmed if the apartment had a smoke detector.

"It might have given them a warning, a chance to get out," said Capt. Patrick Flynn, fire department spokesman. "It would have made a difference. It was a smoldering fire, a fire in front of the building; they [the victims] were in the rear. A detector would have given them enough warning."

Flynn said only two of the building's six apartments were equipped with smoke detectors. State law requires landlords of all apartment buildings with more than three apartments to provide the units with smoke detectors.

Attempts today to reach Robert Rody, the building's landlord, were unsuccessful.

Karen Davis, who lives on the first floor of the building across from where the fire began, said her apartment has a smoke detector -- but only because the dwelling is part of Section 8 federally subsidized housing and was inspected by state housing officials before she moved in.

"You don't know what can happen. You don't know if the smoke detector [in her apartment] works," Davis said. "I heard the fire when it began and it was real scary. You don't always think about having a smoke detector, but I guess you should."

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