6 are critically injured as fire engulfs house 3 children cling to life with burns over 100% of bodies

January 31, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Three children clung to life last night after they narrowly escaped a fire that engulfed an East Baltimore rowhouse, trapping several youngsters inside and forcing others to jump three stories to the street. The blaze left one woman and five children ranging in age from 10 months to 10 years in critical condition at area hospitals. Three of the children suffered severe burns on 100 percent of their bodies.

Victims with such injuries typically "do not survive," said Dr. Julius Goepp, assistant director of the pediatric emergency department at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Fire investigators ruled the fire accidental, but provided few details. They said it started in a room on the first floor of the narrow three-story rowhouse in the 300 block of E. Biddle St., just off Guilford Avenue.

Children tumbled from third-story windows and parents cradled toddlers in their arms as they leaped to safety, according to witnesses. Burns on one infant were so severe that Ted Sutton, who stopped to help, burned his wrist when he picked up a 10-month-old lying on the sidewalk.

"People were actually falling head first," said Mr. Sutton, 28, who works with disabled and injured children at Kennedy Krieger Institute and drove by the building moments before firefighters arrived.

Mr. Sutton, who described the scene as a "war zone," helped another man break a window with a trash can and a baseball bat, enabling two people to crawl to safety. He saw one man jump and another person drop a 10-month-old out a third-story window.

Firefighters received their first call at 8 a.m. and had the fire under control within 15 minutes. By then, the house was destroyed. One smoke detector was found on the third floor, but officials could not tell if it worked.

The nine people in the house when the fire broke out were being treated at hospitals all over the city.

The victims were identified as:

Sharon Peterson, 38, in good condition, and her daughter, Erica Page, 10, in critical condition.

William Jackson, 31, was in fair condition. His children, Desean -- Martin-Bailey, 3, Trevon Jackson, 10 months, and Tiara Jackson, 10, were in critical condition.

Jacqueline McKoy, 21, was in critical condition. Her daughter, Tiffany Miller, 6, was in critical condition. Her son, Delvon McKoy, 1, was in good condition.

Yesterday's fire was the second recent blaze in the block. Last week, a fire that residents said was arson burned out a vacant rowhouse two doors away and unnerved many residents who say the city has done little to fix up their block.

"I'm nervous up in here," said Louise Bills, 55, who has lived on the street for 20 years. A house next door was the one that burned last week. On the other side is a house that has been boarded up for 18 years.

Ms. Bills said a man, woman and two children had moved two or three years ago into the house that burned yesterday. The other residents of the house were more recent additions. Like most neighbors interviewed, she knew little about the families.

Firefighter Bernard Muller, who has ridden on Truck 16 for 15 years, was one of the first rescue workers to arrive at the fire. When the engine pulled out of its station at Mount Royal and Guilford avenues, he said he could see smoke pouring from the rowhouse several blocks away.

"When we pulled around the corner, we could see the flames blowing into the street and two victims laying in the street, bleeding and burnt," Firefighter Muller said. He and three other rescue workers, Lt. Brian Hoffman, Lt. Fred Ruff and Firefighter Jim McFetrich, went into the burning house to find the trapped children.

He found Tiffany Miller lying in her bed on the second floor. Another firefighter found two other children on the other side of the same bed, curled up under pillows and blankets. An infant was found in another room, lying beside a crib.

TTC "You can't see a thing," Firefighter Muller said. "You crawl along, and you just feel around. The first thing I found was a baby doll." He said that when he found Tiffany, he had to press her face to his mask to see if she was breathing.

"She was burnt pretty bad," said Firefighter Muller, who has two children of his own, Sarah, 6, and Bethany, 8.

"When I'm here, they call to make sure they get their good night prayers from dad. They feel they are safe. I'll hug them a little bit more tonight."

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