Two children died yesterday morning when clothes next to an electric space heater caught fire in the basement of their two-story brick rowhouse in the 1800 block of N. Montford Ave.
The deaths brought to 14 the number of people killed in city fires this year.
Firefighters found Firmaine Moore, 15 months, and Alfred Purnell Simpson, 3, in the basement. The children, still in their beds, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Officer Richard Heymann arrived at the scene in East Baltimore about 5:40 a.m. and saw thick smoke and flames erupting from a basement window.
"I tried to get in," he said, "but the first floor was full of fire and I just couldn't do anything."
Moments later, firefighters and nearly a dozen pieces of equipment arrived and attacked the blaze.
Fire investigators said 12 people were in the house, including the two victims. The house was not equipped with smoke detectors, they said.
Investigators said the survivors, including the victims' mother, ran out the front and rear doors and that it appeared no one was able to reach the children.
The victims' mother, Nicole Brisco, received minor injuries and was treated by an ambulance crew.
Officials said people were sleeping on both floors and in the basement. Apparently, the fire started in the basement, which Ms. Brisco and her children used as a bedroom, then raced upstairs. Ms. Brisco, who was upstairs when the fire started, told firefighters that she tried to get back into the basement but couldn't because of the smoke and flames.
The blaze caused about $5,000 in damage to the rowhouse and $1,000 in damage to the property of the residents. The survivors found shelter with neighbors and friends.
Leni Uddyback, a spokeswoman for the Central Maryland Red Cross, said that the agency worked with the families throughout the day, providing vouchers for food and clothing.