Mother, 6-year-old son die in row house fire

October 15, 1991|By Roger Twigg

A 25-year-old woman died early yesterday in a futile attempt to save her 6-year-old son from a fire that swept their Northeast Baltimore home before dawn. Three other people escaped by climbing from a second-story window.

Fire investigators said that Patricia Thomas was found at the foot of the bed of her son, Michael A. Johnson, who had been asleep in the second-floor rear bedroom of their two-story brick row house in the 1700 block of East 30th Street.

She had apparently intended to lead her son to safety out the second-floor window but was overcome by smoke.

Both Ms. Thomas and Michael were pronounced dead at the scene of the fire, which started at about 4 a.m. as a result of an electrical problem in the basement, said Capt. Patrick P. Flynn, a Fire Department spokesman.

Captain Flynn said smoke detectors in the house awakened the three other residents. Ms. Thomas' 78-year-old grandmother, Catherine Eubanks, and George Turner, 76, who had been asleep in a front bedroom, crawled from a second-floor front window onto the porch roof with Ms. Thomas' 10-year-old son, Maurice Turner, who had been sleeping in a middle bedroom.

Catherine Eubanks was taken to the Francis Scott Key Burn Center, where she was admitted in critical condition, according to a spokeswoman.

Captain Flynn said the fire started in a ceiling light in the center of the basement and apparently burned for some time before going up a stairwell to the second floor, where the five people were sleeping.

James H. Lewis, 52, said he was asleep in the second-story front bedroom of his house just two doors away when he was awakened by someone "tapping on my window." It was Maurice Turner, who had crawled out the second-floor window of the burning house and made his way across the roof to awaken Mr. Lewis. Mr. Lewis said he led Maurice and the elderly couple into his bedroom, then went to the burning building to see if he could find Ms. Thomas and her younger son.

"It was so bad I couldn't get in," he said.

Some 42 firefighters using 14 pieces of apparatus battled the single-alarm fire for about 50 minutes before bringing it under control, Captain Flynn said.

Damage was estimated at about $50,000.

The spokesman said had there not been smoke detectors in the house there might have been five fatalities.

Twenty-nine people have been killed in fires in Baltimore this year. The number equals the 29 fire-related deaths recorded during all of last year -- the lowest number since 1938, Captain Flynn said.

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