Arson destroys 8 apartments in city

May 15, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

A fast-moving three-alarm fire that investigators said was deliberately set destroyed eight apartments and damaged four others in Northeast Baltimore yesterday afternoon, leaving at least two dozen people homeless.

Firefighters needed about 45 minutes to bring the fire under control, but it already had destroyed a line of apartments in the 6100 block of Northwood Drive in the Chinquapin Park/Belvedere neighborhood.

The first fire engines arrived at 5 p.m.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, a Fire Department spokesman said, but no residents were reported hurt. At least one pet was killed, added the spokesman, Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres.

Residents who gathered around the Northwood Park Apartments, including young couples with their children and senior citizens who have lived there for decades, said the fire spread quickly through the two-story red brick section, which had four apartments on each level.

"It was so fast," cried Myrt Kavanagh, 60, who moved into her ground-floor apartment 23 years ago and lost two cats, Squeakers and Krissie, in the confusion of the blaze. "We saw the flames and then everything was on fire. It was unbelievable."

Ms. Kavanagh, who had feared the worst for her pets, was joyfully reunited with them later, however.

Chief Torres would not comment on why fire investigators ruled the cause arson. He said officials have evidence to support their opinion, but would not elaborate. No arrests had been made last night. Damage was estimated at $184,500.

The chief said the fire started in a ground-floor apartment at 6116 Northwood Drive, spread to the apartment above, then to the roof, then through an attic crawl space to adjoining units. The first of 95 firefighters to arrive reported flames shooting above four apartments.

"Once fire gets up there, it is very difficult to stop it," Chief Torres said, referring to the crawl space.

The eight apartments that burned were sandwiched between two fire walls, which prevented the fire from spreading to other sections of the long strip.

Four apartments, two on each side of the fire walls, were damaged when firefighters cut through their roofs.

Of the 12 apartments damaged, nine were occupied. An exact count of displaced people was not available last night, but Chief Torres said each apartment averaged three occupants, to bring the number of homeless to 27.

The chief said the occupant of the apartment where the fire started was not home, but that his Rottweiler dog died. The man, who appeared to be in his 20s, was at the scene. He refused to give his name or answer questions while he waited to be interviewed by city police arson investigators.

His upstairs neighbor, Lamont Montague, 28, said he was talking to relatives on the phone in his bedroom when the fire broke out.

"Something exploded," he said. "It was some kind of explosion down there. I looked down and saw smoke coming up from the floor. I got my fiance and my nephew and ran out. I lost everything."

His girlfriend, Alisa Moore, 29, and his nephew, 3-year-old Ronnie Williams, were not hurt but appeared stunned as they clutched the portable phone, the only item they salvaged, and watched firefighters toss charred belongings from porches.

Mrs. Kavanagh said she was relaxing in her living room when the fire broke out.

"I just heard people talking," she said.

"I went to see what was going on and someone yelled, 'Fire, fire.' "

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.