Fires leave three families homeless 12 Baltimore residents are injured

April 01, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Smoke detectors and speedy rescue work by firefighters helped avert tragedies yesterday as fires blamed on careless smoking damaged two residential buildings in West Baltimore.

The fires in a row home at 1502 W. Lanvale St. and an apartment rowhouse at 1718 Harlem Ave. left 12 people injured -- one of them critically -- and three families homeless, authorities said.

"It could have been disastrous had it not been for smoke detectors and the quick actions of firefighters," said Capt. Hector L. Torres, a fire department spokesman. "We could have had a completely different situation. Instead of 12 injured, we could have had 15 perished."

On Lanvale Street, discarded smoking materials ignited a sofa, and the fire spread up a stairway of the three-story building. The nine occupants were awakened about 5:30 a.m. by sounds of smoke detectors, breaking glass and screams, Captain Torres said.

"I heard some glass break and then someone said 'Help, help, my house is on fire,'" said 11-year-old Deanna J. Jenkins, who was sleeping in an adjacent building. She said she looked out a window and saw the occupants on a lower roof, trying to avoid the dense smoke and heat from flames shooting out a window.

"A woman was holding a [crying] baby against her to keep it from breathing the smoke," and others were yelling that the roof was becoming too hot to stand on, she said.

Arriving firefighters used ladders to rescue most of the occupants, but two people jumped from the lower roof -- Angela Olivis-bey, 25, who was released after treatment for smoke inhalation and minor injuries at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and 61-year-old Donald Cooper, who was listed in critical condition last night at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center burn unit.

Four children -- from 3 months to 5 years -- and three other adults were released after treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center, officials said.

About six blocks away, on Harlem Avenue, a 7:25 a.m. blaze was blamed on careless smoking by an intruder -- someone in the basement of the three-story apartment building, where firefighters found a mattress on the floor.

Alerted by smoke detectors, six occupants of the apartments fled using a fire escape. Three of them were treated for smoke inhalation, officials said.

Next-door neighbors Grayling and Tressie Hollis complained that drug users have used the apartment building's basement.

"Many young people go down in the basement and smoke crack," Mr. Hollis said. "It's a major problem there and everywhere else in the neighborhood."

Asked if the fire might have been caused by someone smoking crack, the captain said, "That's possible, but we have no way of knowing."

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