Two young boys and an uncle who tried to save them perished yesterday in an early morning fire in Northwest Baltimore.
Donte Colbert, 5, and his brother, Monta Colbert, 3, were found in the arms of their uncle Thaddeus Colbert, 29, on the second floor of the home in the 4300 block of Miami Place in Forest Park shortly after midnight, relatives said.
Mr. Colbert was trying to make it down the stairs from the second floorwhen a blast of air -- apparently from someone opening the front door to escape -- caused the fire to flash and sent flames shooting through the house, fire investigators said.
Two women suffered minor injuries, and three other adults, including the children's grandmother, escaped unharmed.
"I just wish I had my children back," said Nancy Colbert, 54, Thaddeus Colbert's mother and the children's grandmother. "You don't know how something like this hurts until it happens to you."
The blaze broke out in the first-floor den shortly after midnight when curtains hanging near a space heater ignited, according to Capt. Stephan Fugate, a fire investigator. The children's parents were not home at the time.
Mrs. Colbert said she and the children were in their rooms on the second floor, while Thaddeus Colbert was in the basement when the smoke detector went off.
"I opened the door to my room and yelled to my son to see if there was a pot on the stove," Mrs. Colbert said.
When Thaddeus Colbert climbed the stairs to the first floor, he yelled to his mother that the den was on fire. Mrs. Colbert said she had started to get two elderly women out of the house when her son grabbed the heater and threw it out of a window.
Then he went upstairs to get the children. "I threw him a towel to put over his face, and he yelled to me from the second floor that he had the children -- and that was the last I ever heard from him," Mrs. Colbert said.
Firefighters found the three lying in the hallway of the second floor. "He had one child in each arm," Mrs. Colbert said.
Yesterday afternoon, neighbors of the Colberts stood on their front porches and stared at the burned-out home on the small tree-lined street between Fordney and Eldorado avenues.
"I'm not over it," said Winifred Lonesome, who lives across the street. "I watched Thaddeus grow up. The two little children were always outside riding their big wheels."
Several car loads of people drove by the home, which had a burned pile of furniture and clothing scraps in the front yard. The interior and most of the exterior of the house were destroyed.
"I think this neighborhood is going to be very quiet from now on," said Douglas Mathis, a neighbor across the street.
"They were a well-known and a well-liked family."