Five children killed in city rowhouse fire Blaze started in basement

April 23, 1993|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Staff Writer

Five children -- the eldest age 6 -- died early today in a fire that destroyed their rowhouse in the 1300 block of Ensor St. in East Baltimore.

All the victims were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where they were pronounced dead, reportedly from smoke inhalation.

Their mother, Cynthia Addison, 37, and four other children, including two teen-age boys, escaped.

At the time of the fire, the father was in New York, police said.

At least two firefighters sustained minor burns and were treated at the scene.

Reported at 1:25 a.m., the fire went to two alarms at 1:45 a.m. and was under control at 2:25 a.m.

One of the survivors, Craig Addison, 13, said he and his brother Willie, 14, were watching television in a second-floor room shortly after 1 a.m. when they heard a noise in the basement that sounded like the gas furnace was malfunctioning.

Craig said the rest of the family was sleeping. He said he and his brother went to the basement to investigate.

Craig said he attempted to turn on a valve and ignite the pilot light with a piece of paper he had lighted.

"I was trying to get the pilot light going," said Craig, "when the flames [from the lighted paper] got bigger."

He said the flames then spread to some trash in the basement.

After sending his brother upstairs to get some water , Craig said, he tried to extinguish the flames by beating them out with clothing.

Capt. Stephen Fugate, a fire investigator, said the youngster believed he was doing the right thing, but beating the flames with clothing helped only to spread the fire.

Captain Fugate said it didn't appear that the boy was able to turn the pilot light valve on.

Captain Fugate said there was no evidence of a malfunctioning furnace.

Failing to extinguish the flames, the two teen-agers ran upstairs and alerted their mother.

In the meantime, flames consumed a portion of the basement near the furnace before racing up the basement stairway "The stairway acted as a chimney," said Captain Fugate. He said the fire charred several of the steps leading to the first floor.

Once the flames reached the first floor, they consumed the living room, dining room and kitchen before racing up the stairs toward the second floor, where many of the victims were sleeping.

L "There was nothing to stop the flames," Captain Fugate said.

As the house filled with flames and thick smoke, the mother was able to gather only 6-month-old Kimberley and Michelle, 7, and run out the front door. She and the two children got to a neighbor's house safely.

Following her were Craig and Willie. Craig, said a neighbor, ran back at least once to rescue his sisters, but he couldn't get past the front room.

Moments before the first of more than 50 firefighters arrived, four men, Melvin Tyson, 27, of the 1300 block of Ensor St.; Troy Reed, 22, of the 1400 block of Aisquith St.; Edward Thomas, 27, of the 1500 block of Aisquith St., and Ray Fields, 36, of the 1000 block of E. Preston St., tried to get into the house, but they were beaten back by flames and smoke.

"We were trying to get into the back window from a roof outside the kitchen when I heard a kid crying inside," said Mr. Tyson.

He said he and the other men removed the rear door from its hinges and threw it through the rear windows, but the flames made it impossible to enter the inferno.

"A few minutes later, we no longer heard the child crying" said Mr. Reed.

Two Eastern District policemen, Alan Savage and Charles McDermott, also tried to enter the house through a second-floor rear window.

"We couldn't get in because the flames were pouring out the windows," said Officer Savage. "It was just too much fire."

Shortly after firefighters entered the house and beat out the flames, they found four of the dead children in a bed in what was left of a second-floor front bedroom.

The victims were identified as Ashley Addison, 5, and her three sisters; Melody, 4; Gabrielle, 3, and Britany, 2.

Huddled in a bedroom closet in a vain attempt to escape the flames, firefighters found the fifth victim, Angela, 6.

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