Fire prevention preached where lives were lost

January 11, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Kenneth Moore vividly remembers the sweet faces of the children at 619 Edgewood St. and how their mother, Roslynn Terrell, assured him in October that there was a working smoke detector inside her rented West Baltimore rowhouse.

But yesterday, as the 37-year-old city firefighter returned to the street, he struggled to understand what had happened to that smoke alarm. Fire investigators said it was missing when smoke and flames swept through the house early Sunday, killing four of Ms. Terrell's children.

Ms. Terrell died yesterday morning from injuries received in the fire. Her three surviving children -- Paul, 6, Cedric, 11, and Micah, 3 -- remained in critical condition in area hospitals.

"I never thought I'd be going back for something of this magnitude," Mr. Moore said, as he walked slowly along Edgewood Street and avoided looking at the Terrell home. "I am upset. I am trying to put this behind me. I have a 5-year-old son and that sits bad with me. I doubt that I'll ever forget this."

Mr. Moore met Ms. Terrell and her children in the fall as he walked through the Allendale community distributing a pamphlet fire safety. That was after an Edmondson Avenue fire that killed a 28-year-old mother and her three children.

Yesterday, he and about 40 other firefighters walked through the same neighborhood, handing out the same pamphlets. Their mood was somber, and the message was stern.

"We're going to keep on doing this -- keep knocking on doors and do whatever it takes," said city Fire Chief Herman Williams Jr., who stood in front of the Terrells' gutted two-story house choking back tears. "You never get over this. It's personal. Every time there is a loss, I feel it."

Chief Williams blamed the deadly fire on the lack of a smoke detector. He said clothing piled on a heating grate in the entrance hall ignited, sending smoke throughout the house. Ms. Terrell and her children were found in their beds, apparently never aware that their house was on fire, he said.

The house, owned by Curly Realty Corp. of North Howard Street and rented to Ms. Terrell about a year ago, is required by city law to have a smoke detector provided by the tenant.

"For six bucks, it's a cheap investment," Chief Williams said. "If they don't have a smoke detector, let's do what we can to make sure they get one. . . . We just can't continue to have this."

Lt. Sam Johnson of the city Fire Department met a group of sad colleagues as the shift changed yesterday morning and firefighters from his company on North Avenue went home still stunned from the Edgewood Street fire.

"You could tell they had been involved in something very traumatic," Lieutenant Johnson said. "They didn't sleep very well and they did a lot of talking. In the 25 years I've been doing this, I've never seen one that wasn't sad. But it's almost double when the little people go."

Neighbors on Edgewood Street also were upset. Many remembered the Terrell children as lively, cheerful additions to the block that is located near Hilton Parkway and Edmondson Avenue.

"This has had a devastating effect," said Shirley Bazemore, who lives nearby in the 700 block of Grantley Ave. "It just dawned on us today to check our smoke detector. They are so important and we can't put things like that off."

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