A fire official says an elderly man accidentally set a fire last night that destroyed an East Baltimore rowhouse, injuring eight people, including a 4-year-old girl who may have jumped or fallen three stories to the pavement.
The girl, Alvena Whittaker, was in good condition today at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Officials credited a neighbor, Larry Carter, 36, with possibly saving the girl's life. He was slightly injured when he stood on the sidewalk and broke the child's fall, according to the Fire Department.
Besides Alvena, three children either jumped or were dropped into the waiting arms of neighbors, some of whom held sheets out to break their falls. Other residents climbed onto a second-story roof in the rear and were rescued by firefighters.
Others injured were Carlos Whittaker, 8, in critical condition at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center with burns over 60 percent of his body; Sherie Brown, 5, in good condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital with burns; Sharlondia Brown, 1, in good condition at Hopkins with smoke inhalation; Virginia Martin, 21, treated and released from Hopkins after suffering smoke inhalation; Edward Martin, 14, in fair condition at Church Hospital with smoke inhalation, and Alvena Martin, 39, treated at Church Hospital and released.
Fire officials said today they believe the girl fell, but left open the possibility that she either jumped or was dropped from the house in the 1600 block of Ashland Ave.
The fire broke out in the first-floor living room about 11:40 p.m. and quickly spread to the second and third floors, trapping residents.
"I feel real good they got out," said Mr. Carter, who told of seeing the smoke from his home across the street and running over in time to catch the girl falling from an upper window.
Capt. Stephen G. Fugate, of the fire investigation bureau, would not say how the elderly man, who was resting in a nearby church, set the fire. "I don't know if he knows what he was doing," Captain Fugate said.
The man, identified as Preston Robinson, 77, has not been seen since the blaze.