Two people suffered burns and other injuries yesterday evening when they jumped into an alley from a second-story window while trying to escape a fire that had engulfed their East Preston Street row house.
The fire erupted on the first floor of the house about 6:30 p.m. and quickly went to two alarms as it spread to two adjoining homes. Authorities said lightning may have been the cause.
heard a loud bang all of a sudden, and then there was a lot of screaming," said Beatrice Gaddy, who lives three doors away.
She said it had rained for a short time just before the fire started and thunder could be heard, and some neighbors believed lightning ignited the house.
But police and a fire investigator said it appeared the fire began on the first floor and was caused by an electrical surge in the house after a nearby power line was struck by lightning.
Fire Department Battalion Chief Fred Schwardz said lightning apparently did not hit the home directly because it "doesn't strike the firstfloor."
Deputy Chief Andrew Shows said the fire was very intense when he arrived. "When I got there, the whole house was on fire," he said.
One injured occupant, Herbert Thompson, 34, suffered burns on 80 percent of his body. He also had a neck and back injury. He was taken to the burn unit at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition last night.
The other, Dorothy Fitzgerald, 57, suffered second-degree burns both arms and had a neck and back injury. She was reported in serious condition at the Maryland ShockTrauma Center.
Six firefighters were treated at area hospitals for heat exhaustion and steam burns. All were released after treatment, except for Capt. George McKnight who was held for observation at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Another person was injured when a car and a fire engine heading for the Preston Street blaze collided, officials said.
Police said a Mitsubishi Galant traveling north on Calvert Street collided with the fire engine heading east on Mount Royal Avenue with its emergency lights on and siren and horn blaring.
The driver of the car, Peter Fosselman, 26, of Oakton, Va., was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment for neck injuries. He was listed in stable condition.
Firefighters riding on the truck were not injured, and damage to the vehicle appearedto be slight. The Mitsubishi was totaled, with its windshield shattered and front end smashed.
The fire was declared under control at 7 p.m.
Chief Schwardz said he could not offer a damage estimate but said the inside of the row house where the fire began was gutted. There was lesser damage to the adjoining homes, he said.
Neighborhood residents who gathered along Preston Street to watch the blaze said the two people who jumped about 20 feet into the back alley both appeared badly burned.
Ms. Gaddy's son, Kevin Gaddy, said that five or six people lived in the row house but that only the two who were injured were home when the fire occurred.