Blaze damages 3 houses, leaves 13 homeless

January 27, 1995|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Sun Staff Writer

A four-alarm fire whipped by stiff breezes heavily damaged three houses in Northwest Baltimore late last night, leaving at least 13 people homeless.

The fire broke out about 9:30 p.m. in a second-floor rear bedroom at 5252 St. Charles Ave., quickly destroying that section of the house, fire officials said. Fire broke through the roof and flames leaped more than 10 feet to houses at 5254 and 5250, setting the roofs on fire.

The fire, reportedly caused by a man smoking in bed, caused about $250,000 in damage to the three houses, which also suffered heavy smoke and water damage, fire officials said.

The first alarm was sounded at 9:46 p.m., the second alarm at 9:54 p.m., the third at 9:59 p.m. and the fourth at 10:20 p.m., fire officials said. About 30 pieces of apparatus and 90 firefighters responded.

The fire was declared under control at 11:23 p.m., fire officials said.

Battalion Chief Hector Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, said no injuries were reported. He credited several Northwestern District police officers with evacuating the occupants, one of them an elderly man who uses a wheelchair.

Chief Torres said Gladys Briscoe, 62, of 5252 St. Charles was downstairs shortly after 9:30 p.m. when a smoke detector sounded.

He said she yelled upstairs for her tenant, Edwin House, 44, to leave the house.

Capt. Dennis Howell, a fire investigator, said a preliminary investigation showed that Mr. House apparently fell asleep while smoking.

His cigarette fell to the floor and set some papers on fire, fire officials said.

The burning papers, in turn, set his bed and bedroom on fire and quickly spread throughout the second floor, Captain Howell said.

"If the woman hadn't heard the smoke detector and yelled upstairs, the man could have easily been burned to death," Chief Torres said.

No one was at home at 5250.

At 5254 St. Charles, an elderly couple, including the man who uses a wheelchair, got out without injury.

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