Fire victim may have been drinking, officials say

May 29, 1995

Baltimore Housing Authority officials are investigating reports that a disabled 58-year-old man who died in a fire in his Lake View Towers apartment Friday night may have been drinking when he apparently ignited his couch with a cigarette.

Rudolph Walker died of smoke inhalation before Baltimore firefighters knocked down the door of his 11th-floor apartment in the 700 block of Druid Park Lake Drive about 10:50 p.m.

Residents of the building for low-income elderly people told fire investigators that Mr. Walker had fallen earlier Friday and may have been drinking. But when paramedics arrived, he refused to let them take him to the hospital.

Later, the fire swept through the man's apartment.

Zack Germroth, a spokesman for the housing authority, confirmed yesterday that a system of manual fire alarm switches in the hallways of the building has been malfunctioning since April and probably was out of commission when the fire started. But it does not appear to have been a factor in the death, he said

Mr. Germroth said the primary alarm system -- a hard-wired network of smoke detectors in every unit -- was functioning properly.

"There was a symphony of smoke alarms on the 11th floor that night," he said. "As soon as the residents saw smoke in the hallway, they ran back into their apartments and dialed 911."

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