Two city firefighters raced into a burning South Baltimore rowhouse today and rescued a baby after a fast-moving fire churned through the dwelling. Three other occupants of the house were hospitalized as a result of the blaze.
Five-month-old Sean Biggs was burned on the head and arms and was listed in critical condition at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The others injured were taken to the Francis Scott Key Medical Center's burn unit. They are Dorothy Whitaker, 40, who is listed in fair condition; Tammy Whitaker, 13, also fair, and Robert Houck, 23, in critical condition.
An official said the one-alarm fire was started on the second floor of the house in the 200 block of S. Payson St. by the infant's 4-year-old brother, Daniel Biggs, who was playing with a cigarette lighter. Daniel escaped unharmed.
Battalion Chief Joseph Dillon said the infant was in a crib on the floor, which could have helped him survive as smoke rose higher in the room.
Firefighters William Raab, of Engine Co. 8, and Darryl Williams, of Engine Co. 14, were primarily responsible for saving the baby's life, according to Chief Dillon.
"The fire was on the second floor when I arrived," Firefighter Raab said. "We knew there was an infant trapped inside and we knew we had to get to it. I just kept on praying that I would get to him and he wouldn't be dead."
Firefighter Raab said he trudged up the steps in full gear and breathing apparatus and saw Firefighter Williams manning a fire hose and clearing a path through the flames to the baby's room.
"The door was closed and when I opened it it was like you would open your oven door, only more intense," he said. "It was very smoky and my equipment was fogging up, but I found the crib.
"He was laying face down under a heavy blanket and when I reached down to get him I noticed the burns on his head and arms," he said. "I grabbed him into my arms and felt his chest rise. . . . I knew that he was alive although suffering some bad burns."
With other firefighters suppressing the flames, Firefighter Raab clutched the infant to his coat and headed back down the stairs.
"Stallings [Firefighter Dan Stallings] was in front of me yelling: 'Make a hole, make a hole, he's got the baby!' I got to the front door and just rushed to the medic so they could get him to the hospital.
"It was my first rescue," said the 25-year-old firefighter. "I want to pray that he lives."
Firefighter Williams, a self-described "rookie" at 23, said his part in the successful rescue "was a personal thing. It's like you appreciate life and when you get a chance to do something like that...
He said the infant's mother, Candy Biggs, had just taken her other child, Joshua, 5, to school, when the fire broke out.