Fire leaves 60 people homeless Four-alarm blaze strikes apartments

January 10, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

A four-alarm fire raced through two adjoining buildings in a Northeast Baltimore apartment complex last night, leaving about people homeless on a wet, cold, winter night.

The fire, reported about 7 p.m., was in the Hamilton Ridge Apartments in the 4800 block of Hamilton Ave. Despite efforts of firefighters, it was still burning 2 1/2 hours later, although under control, firefighters said.

It was the second major fire in the apartment complex in just over two months. Another building, 4810 Hamilton Ave., next to one of those that burned last night, was severely damaged in a two-alarm fire that left 14 people homeless Oct. 24.

Last night's fire was fed at least in part by natural gas leaking from broken mains in the basement of one of the buildings, fire investigators said.

The fire began in the laundry area in the basement of 4812 Hamilton Ave. and spread quickly throughout the building and ++ into the adjoining building, 4814 Hamilton Ave., investigators said.

"We're calling it suspicious right now," said Capt. Hector Torres, spokesman for the city's Fire Department. "We received some reports that there may have been some kids down in the basement area."

No injuries were reported last night, but dozens of occupants from both buildings shivered in the cold as they watched firemen try to extinguish the blaze. Thick, gray smoke poured at times from both brick-faced, three-story buildings after the blaze was reported.

Captain Torres said firefighters were hampered in extinguishing the blaze promptly for fear of a natural gas explosion.

The spokesman also said the apartment complex management did not have enough vacant units to house the homeless families from last night's blaze. The Red Cross was helping arrange last night for emergency shelter.

Twenty-three apartments were involved last night -- 22 of them occupied, Captain Torres said.

He said the gas mains where the fire was believed to have started had been broken from their supports, although investigators were not clear on whether the damage had been done before the fire or was caused by it.

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