Rowhouse fire kills 4 children in W. Baltimore

January 10, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer Staff writer Lan Nguyen contributed to this article.

Four children died early yesterday morning after fire and smoke filled their West Baltimore rowhouse, only a block from where an arson fire killed three children and their mother in October.

A woman and three other children were in critical condition after the blaze, which fire officials said was accidental.

The one-alarm fire was reported at 4:27 a.m in the 600 block of Edgewood St., directly across from Gov. William Donald Schaefer's home since childhood, and had been sparked by clothing piled atop a first-floor heating grate, said Battalion Chief Hector Torres.

The eight people, whose ages ranged from 18 months to 28 years, were still in their beds when firefighters arrived, Chief Torres said.

"They were probably overcome by the smoke," he said. "There is absolutely no indication that these people made any attempt to escape."

The house was not equipped with smoke detectors, Chief Torres said.

"Relatively speaking, there was not a whole lot of fire," he said. "These people would not have died if there had been smoke detectors."

Quintin Terrell, 4, and Dominique Glover, 8, were pronounced dead at the scene. Doctors declared Jeanette Glover, 11, and Samuel Terrell, 18 months, dead about 1 1/2 hours later at St. Agnes Hospital.

Roslynn Terrell, 28, Paul Terrell, 6, and Cedric Terrell, 11, were listed in critical condition yesterday afternoon at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center's Burn Unit.

Hospital officials said Ms. Terrell had burns over 82 percent of her body.

Micah Terrell, 3, was in critical but stable condition at the University of Maryland Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Shari Price, who lives in the rowhouse next door, said she awoke to screams and the sound of smoke alarms in her home.

"I heard [someone] scream, 'Oh, my god, it's a fire,' " Ms. Price said. "When I came outside, there was already somebody banging on their door, yelling for them to get out."

Two city police officers, including one assigned to patrol outside the governor's home, kicked in the front door but were prevented from entering by smoke and heat, said police spokesman Sam Ringgold.

Firefighters arrived a few moments later and were "able to get inside fairly quickly," Chief Torres said. They had the blaze under control by 5:07 a.m.

Damage to the house and personal property has been estimated at $13,000.

Fire officials suspect the children died of smoke inhalation, but a final determination is to be made by the Maryland medical examiner, Chief Torres said. Their deaths brought the number of fire fatalities in Baltimore for 1994 to seven, he said.

"Unfortunately, the fire started on the main floor right at the foot of the steps," he said. "The stairway acted as a direct channel [for fire and smoke] right upstairs to where all the people were asleep."

Valerie Blackwell, a close friend and former neighbor of Ms. Terrell, went to visit the unconscious and heavily bandaged woman at the burn center yesterday. She said the family had lived on Edgewood Street for more than a year. Ms. Terrell often baby-sat Ms. Blackwell's four children, she said.

"Any time you needed her, she was there," Ms. Blackwell said. "She came to my rescue all the time."

After Ms. Blackwell, 24, moved away, the two woman, who had no telephones, kept in touch through their children, who attended Mary E. Rodman Elementary School.

James Johnson of 723 Edgewood St. said the children frequently played out on the sidewalk in front of their row home and the nearby convenience store.

"I'm going to miss the kids," he said. "It was entertaining to watch them."

It is the second fatal fire in the Allendale section of West Baltimore in four months. An early morning fire Oct. 7 in the 3400 block of Edmondson Ave. killed Sophie Hunter, 26, and her three sons. Lakia Jackson, 11, survived after she fell 30 feet from a second-floor window.

There has been no arrest in connection with that blaze, which investigators said was deliberately set.

Chief Torres said fire officials will go door-to-door through the Allendale neighborhood today, talking with residents about the importance of installing smoke detectors with fresh batteries.

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