A West Baltimore man was charged with first-degree murder today after allegedly setting a two-alarm rowhouse fire last night that killed one man, injured two people and left a family of four homeless.
The fire, which erupted about 11:20 p.m., was intentionally set in a sofa and a chair in the first-floor living room of the three-story brick rowhouse in the 1900 block of Edmondson Ave., authorities said.
Gregory D. Nelson, 40, who lived in the building, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and arson in the death of John Yates, 43, of the same address. Mr. Nelson was being held at police headquarters pending an appearance before a court commissioner.
Witnesses and police said two men who lived on the second floor of the home were arguing outside when one of the men threatened to burn the house down. A few minutes later, a man was seen running from the burning home, witnesses said.
Mr. Yates was unable to escape from the house and was killed by the fire. He was found lying near a bedroom window on the second floor, and was pronounced dead at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center about an hour after the fire began.
He was not believed to have been involved in the argument the preceded the fire, authorities said.
Mr. Yates' companion, Shirley Lawrence, 50, was found unconscious in a bed in the same room. She was listed in very critical condition today at Bon Secours Hospital, where she was on a life support system.
Firefighters rescued two children from the third floor of the house.
Larry Carlos, 26, said he and his girlfriend, Desirre Miller, 25, and her two children, Larry, 3, and Latoya, 2, were awakened by the fire and managed to get to the front window.
Firefighters carried the children down a ladder.
Mr. Carlos said his girlfriend was climbing down the ladder when she lost her footing in the dense smoke halfway down and fell to the pavement.
Mr. Carlos said he waited until another ladder was placed against the front of the house before he climbed down.
The family took refuge at a neighbor's house before Ms. Miller was taken to Bon Secours Hospital, where she was treated for an injured right leg and released.
The fire was declared under control at 12:25 a.m., after it destroyed the rowhouse and damaged the rooftops and upper floors of neighboring homes, forcing other families to evacuate them.
Damage to the rowhouse and its contents was estimated at $60,000.