Thirteen people, including four small children, escaped a three-alarm fire in Baltimore early today that was partially fed by a ruptured natural gas line, a fire official said.
Capt. Robert Hatoff, of the fire investigation bureau, said the fire at 2219 Rosyln Ave., off Gwynns Falls Parkway, began in the basement.
Investigators say it appears that the fire started in the area where electrical service comes into the house, said Capt. Hector Torres, a fire department spokesman.
Captain Torres said investigators found heavy damage in electrical equipment in the basement, indicating that the fire may have started there.
The fire destroyed two floors of a three-story house in Walbrook Junction, causing an estimated $200,000 in damage to the structure and its contents, fire officials said.
Officials from the local Red Cross office were attempting to help those displaced by the fire.
Linda Klein, a spokeswoman for the Central Maryland Red Cross, said officials had met with most of the fire victims. She said the agency was providing vouchers for food, clothing and other items, as well as referring the victims to public agencies that also can help.
"Apparently, they really lost everything," she said.
Ms. Klein said the victims had made arrangements to stay with family and friends in the area.
She said the Red Cross uses its disaster relief fund to respond to such emergencies.
Fire officials said 10 people apparently had been living in the house and three people were visiting at the time of the fire.
Captain Hatoff said that as the fire progressed, it disrupted a natural gas line in the basement, sending columns of flame throughout the dwelling.
Firefighters went to the basement and turned off the gas, but flames already had spread through the house, which was partitioned into tiny rooms, he said.
Several times, firefighters had to retreat from the interior of the shingle and frame dwelling when flames erupted through the roof and filled the rooms on the upper floors.
At the height of the blaze, firefighters were ordered from the second and third floors for fear that they'd be trapped in flames.
At least three aerial towers poured water on the house as other equipment battled the fire from three sides.
One resident, 20-year-old Alton Williams, said he was dozing off shortly before 3 a.m. after watching a movie on TV in his second-floor bedroom when he smelled smoke.
"When I looked out my bedroom window to the ground below," Mr. Williams said, "I saw flames coming from the basement window and door."
Mr. Williams said he woke his mother, Vivian Williams, 34. Together they woke seven other family members, including three small children.
One of Mrs. Williams' sons ran to the third floor and escorted Angela Mimms, 35, to safety.
Family members also went to the first floor, where they alerted Arlene Jarvis, 34; her 4-year-old son, Maurice Washington; and a houseguest, Charles Washington, 56, before all of them ran out the front door.
Captain Torres said the second and third floors were destroyed and the first floor suffered severe smoke and water damage.
He said it took nearly 100 firefighters manning 29 pieces of equipment more than two hours to gain control of the fire.
Reported at 2:40 a.m., the fire went to two additional alarms at 2:59 a.m. and 3:03 a.m. before being declared under control at 4:46 a.m.