Boy, grandfather killed in blaze in Baltimore rowhouse

August 16, 1994|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

Three people died in fires in Baltimore yesterday, including a 4-year-old boy and his 34-year-old grandfather who perished in a rowhouse fire in the 2000 block of Greenmount Ave. on the east side.

A 40-year-old woman died when flames raced through her home in the 5300 block of Denmore Ave. in the Pimlico neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore.

In the Greenmount Avenue fire, firefighters found the bodies of Westley Smith and his grandfather, Clifford Gornes, in a third-story front bedroom of the brick home.

Four people, including the boy's grandmother and two children, escaped the house before firefighters arrived.

The fire started in the second-floor front living room, where Westley was playing with a cigarette lighter, said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman. The three-story house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at 1:36 p.m., he said.

A neighbor across the street said he saw Westley's grandmother, Patricia Hunter, who lived in the house, handing children out over the railing of the front steps. "When she came out, the flames seemed to follow her," said Anthony Brooks.

He said firefighters tried to reach a third-floor window.

"They put the ladder up against the wall, and they broke the glass, but they had to come back down," because of the smoke coming from the window, he said.

Ms. Hunter's 17-year-old niece, Toya Hunter, said Westley often stayed in the rowhouse with his grandparents. She said her three young cousins also came to stay there recently.

Kehinde Abdalla, Westley's godfather, said, "I don't find it inappropriate that grandfather and grandson died together. The bond between them was very close."

Mr. Abdalla, 49, remembered Westley as an affectionate child.

"He was loved by everybody," said Mr. Abdalla. "You might see the worst person in the neighborhood come by and pick him up and buy him some food."

Chief Torres said the two victims probably died of smoke inhalation, but the Maryland medical examiner has not determined an official cause of death.

In the Denmore Avenue fire, investigators said the blaze that killed Janet Johnson shortly before 4 a.m. apparently was caused by careless smoking in bed.

An official said it appeared she attempted to escape but was overcome by smoke.

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