A 67-year-old woman was hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation yesterday as the result of a two-alarm blaze that forced the evacuation of a four-story downtown apartment building.
Most of the 14 people who lived in the building at 816 Park Ave. were not at home when the fire broke out shortly before 1:30 p.m. A cat stranded on a top-floor window ledge stunned bystanders with a dramatic four-story, 30-foot leap to safety after a firefighter grabbed its tail.
Capt. Ronald Baker, a city Fire Department investigator, said the blaze was sparked by a malfunction in an electrical circuit box in the basement hallway of the Park Tower Apartments.
Sanella G. Kief, who lived in a basement apartment, was listed in serious but stable condition last night at University of Maryland Medical Center, where she was being treated for facial burns and smoke inhalation, a spokeswoman said.
The fire left an estimated $30,000 in damage. The tenants of the 10 occupied apartments were offered assistance by their landlord and by the American Red Cross.
Charlie -- a 15-pound, former stray cat adopted more than a year ago by a third-floor tenant, Claire Acey -- was home alone. Apparently frightened as firefighters chopped a hole through the bedroom ceiling to ventilate the building, the cat fled to a front window ledge, and then leaped from a firefighter's grasp.
"He's scared of people. I think that's why he ended up jumping," Ms. Acey said.
Charlie landed on the concrete sidewalk and ran under a parked car before being captured by a neighbor. The animal was reported in stable condition last night at the Falls Road Animal Hospital, where same-name veterinarian Dr. Charlie Weiss said the cat was being treated for smoke inhalation and a fractured pelvis.
"It's amazing how he was able to run around," Dr. Weiss said, explaining that cats and other animals in shock -- including humans -- "have natural endorphins which are released from the central nervous system. It's just like painkillers. They don't even know they're hurt."