Burned toys mark site of city's 31st fire fatality of 1994, a 12-year-old girl

April 12, 1994|By Michael James and Richard Irwin | Michael James and Richard Irwin,Sun Staff Writers

A pile of burned children's toys was a grim reminder yesterday of a West Baltimore rowhouse fire that killed a 12-year-old girl and critically injured two adults and two small children.

The death of Monique Wilson of 26 N. Norris St. was the city's 31st fire fatality of 1994, compared with 34 for all of 1993, firefighters reported. Twenty-one of this year's victims are children age 12 and under.

"You look at all these charred toys and you just can't help but be upset," said Michael Williams, 28, one of about a half-dozen neighborhood residents who stood in front of the burned-out rowhouse yesterday.

"I mean, look at this -- isn't this the saddest thing you ever saw?" he said, pointing to a children's sheet music book barely recognizable as a result of its blackened pages. Also in the pile was a melted doll, a half-burned checkers board and a charred matchbox car.

Monique was pronounced dead at the scene of the 5 a.m. blaze, which apparently was started by food that overheated on a stove, said Battalion Chief Hector Torres, a Fire Department spokesman. The family had no smoke alarm, he said.

Listed in critical condition at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center with burns, smoke inhalation and other injuries were Diane Collen, 32, Toy Gilmore, 6, and Dakia Gilmore, 3. Their relationship to Monique isn't known, although they all lived in the home, Chief Torres said.

Another resident, Frank Gilmore, 50, was in serious but stable condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Witnesses said Monique was leaning out a second-floor window, moments after everyone else in the inferno had either jumped out or were rescued by firefighters.

"The girl was straddling the second-floor window ledge while her mother called to her to jump," said Fire Department Shift Commander Joseph Dillon, "when she either retreated back into the burning room for fear of jumping or was overcome by smoke and collapsed onto the floor."

Bobby Walker, 33, who lives across the street from the burning house, ran outside when he heard glass breaking and saw heavy smoke and flames erupting from the house.

"I looked up and saw 6-year-old Toy hanging out the window with smoke all around him," he said.

Mr. Walker said he climbed onto the banister of the front steps and reached up just enough to pull the boy to safety. "At first, my grip slipped, but then I grabbed him by the back of the head and pulled him out the window," he said.

Mr. Walker said Diane Collen already had jumped from the second-floor front window and was lying in the street calling dTC back to Monique when he arrived.

"One minute I saw the little girl and the next minute she was gone," Mr. Walker said.

As firefighters attacked the burning house from the front and rear, the four injured people were taken by neighbors into Mr. Walker's house, where their wounds were wrapped in bed sheets.

After the single-alarm fire was extinguished, firefighters found the girl's body a few feet from the ledge.

The two-story house, nestled with about a dozen others between the 1400 blocks of W. Fayette and W. Baltimore streets, was gutted by the fire but the sturdy red-brick frame still stood yesterday. The adjoining rowhouses were undamaged.

"It's thanks to these bricks in the walls. It could have been us, too," said Alberta Rogers, who lives next door. "I just wish little Monique could have made it. She was a good little girl."

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