A mother and her three children were forced to flee their northwest Baltimore home last night when a fire, ruled as an arson by investigators, extensively damaged the dwelling next door that was undergoing renovation.
About 20 minutes before the Reisterstown Road fire, said a city fire investigator, someone broke into the former Avalon movie theater in the 4200 block of Park Heights Ave. a few blocks away and set fire to several seats, curtains, wall decorations and trash.
Within the past two weeks, the investigator added, two houses also in the 3800 block of Reisterstown Road have been damaged by fire, one of them deliberately.
Brenda Oglesby, 48, of 3839 Reisterstown Road, said she and two of her children were asleep shortly after 11 o'clock last night when she smelled smoke coming from the house next door at 3837 Reisterstown Road.
Oglesby and her children, Jaleel, 14; Hakiim, 12; and Anana, 8, fled as the first of nearly 30 pieces of fire equipment arrived.
"We have a smoke detector," Oglesby said, "but I never heard it go off."
Capt. Patrick Flynn, a Fire Department spokesman, said the fire was set by someone who entered the house under renovation and poured a flammable liquid on the first floor at the base of the stairway.
He said the fire raced up the stairway, causing extensive damage to the second floor before burning through the roof and entering the second floor of the house at 3835, whose occupants escaped injury.
As the fire consumed much of the two roofs and their rear portions, it caused smoke to enter the second floor of Oglesby's house.
Flynn said the fire caused an estimated $50,000 damage to the house under renovation.
One firefighter, Horace Woodruff, of aerial tower 111, sustained a minor injury when the head of a fire ax he was using dislodged and struck him in the shoulder.
Woodruff, 54, was taken to Sinai Hospital for treatment and released, said Flynn.
Capt. John Griffith, a fire investigator, said there was no immediate evidence that last night's house fire, the theater fire and the two earlier fires were related.