Four children died and four others were injured today after fire and smoke raced through an East Baltimore rowhouse. Authorities believe the fire was set.
Three city firefighters also were injured during their attempts to rescue six children, all of whom were trapped in the smoky second floor of the home in the 2400 block of E. Eager St. In all, 13 people lived in the home.
The two-story brick rowhouse was destroyed and a house next door was extensively damaged.
Sgt. Gary Childs of the city police Homicide Unit said the one-alarm fire was "definitely arson." He said one of the children being carried out by a firefighter pointed to a man in the crowd as the arsonist.
The suspect was arrested and taken to police headquarters, where he was being questioned, authorities said.
The dead were identified as Damien Cook, 2 months; Gregory Cook, 1; Takia Cook, 2, and Russell Williams, 5. The relationships were not immediately known.
Deon Cook, 3, and Antoine Lucas, 12, were at the pediatric intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Both were in critical condition.
William Lucas and William Cook were taken to University of Maryland Medical Center where they were treated for minor cuts and burns. William Cook, 28, was identified by fire officials as the father of some of the children.
An angry neighbor who identified himself as John said he saw the dead infant carried out by a firefighter in a charred plastic baby seat.
"That baby wasn't moving when it came out," John said.
Roberta Williams, 32, who lives next door to the house that burned, said she was awakened about 6 a.m. by someone screaming "Let me in."
Ms. Williams paid the incident no mind and went back to sleep. About 8:30 a.m., she was startled awake as she heard voices yelling "Get out, jump out."
Ms. Williams said she looked next door and saw smoke belching from the upstairs windows and people hanging outside. She and her two children, 14 and 9, escaped.
vTC "It could have been me," she said, visibly shaken. "The walls are so thin, I was scared to death."
Capt. Hector Torres, city Fire Department spokesman, said at least five other people escaped the burning house.
Two who escaped were Tonya Lucas, 29, and Cook and an unidentified 8-year-old. They were asleep on the second floor when they were awakened by the thick smoke and led to safety by firefighters.
In the basement of the house, Mary Harris, 37, was asleep with her husband and two children, Tiffany Knight, 9, and Amelia Knight, 8. They fled the smoke and flames through a front basement window.
Ms. Harris said she made it to the street to find neighbors attempting to help firefighters. But they were beaten back by the choking smoke.
Sergeant Childs said the fire was set after an apparent domestic dispute but no details were available.
The detective said neighbors told him a man had been to the house before the fire broke out and was seen banging on the front door.
"The fire was rolling pretty good when our firefighters first arrived," Captain Torres said.
The first alarm was sounded at 8:16 a.m. and the fire was declared under control at 9 a.m.
Five ambulances took the injured to Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Captain Torres said two of the injured firefighters suffered burns and the other had an ankle injury. They were taken to Mercy Hospital.
One firefighter who went to the back of the burned-out house said he saw a woman sitting in the alley. The woman was weeping and said, "There were people in the house, people in the house."