Fire damages building all occupants escape

February 10, 1993|By Richard Irwin and David Michael Ettlin

About 15 occupants -- some in night clothes -- escaped without injury last night as a three-alarm fire engulfed the upper floors and largely destroyed an old frame-and-shingle home in Northwest Baltimore.

Investigators said a burning cigarette sparked the blaze in the 4000 block of Fernhill Ave., off Garrison Boulevard. The building had been converted into several apartments.

The blaze was reported about 10:45 p.m., and fire officials sounded additional alarms at 11:14 and 11:22 p.m. to bring additional equipment and manpower. It was declared under control at midnight.

Capt. John Griffith, a fire department investigator, said the blaze began in a second-floor front bedroom where a female occupant had left a cigarette burning on or near a bed. She returned to find the bedding ablaze, and tried to douse the flames by carrying water in repeated trips from the bathroom.

Captain Griffith said the woman and at least three children fled the apartment when she was unable to control the flames. Word of the fire spread quickly as residents fled from other apartments.

Kito Horne, 36, who lived on the first floor, said she fled after hearing breaking glass and smelling smoke.

Daryl Goodman, 20, who also lived in a first-floor apartment, said he was watching TV with his girlfriend, Mrs. Horne's daughter, Kim, 21, when a next-door neighbor began banging on the door shouting, "Get out, get out, get your clothes on and get out."

The residents -- a few of them wearing robes -- fled into near-freezing weather, and watched helplessly as flames burned upward through the third floor and roof. The suddenly homeless group included six children.

The lack of wind and the city firefighters' efforts kept the blaze from spreading to neighboring detached homes.

Captain Griffith said the time of the blaze helped prevent tragedy, because the people were still awake. "If the fire had occurred at 3 or 4 in the morning, we'd be hauling out a lot of bodies," he said.

The flames destroyed the upper floors, and the first floor appeared to be heavily damaged by the thousands of gallons of water that firefighters sprayed into the building.

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