Fire official overrules probe's finding on cause of blaze at judge's house

March 14, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A top Baltimore fire official has overruled the findings of one of his investigators, determining that a fire that heavily damaged the $300,000 Mount Washington home of a city judge in July was accidental and not arson.

The fire investigator had ruled the fire incendiary, meaning that someone had set it. That ruling was based on finding four places where the fire began, three in the house and one outside, and evidence that it was started by a flammable liquid.

But Assistant Chief Michael E. Dalton issued a supplemental report that determined the fire that destroyed the home of District Court Judge Barbara Baer Waxman in the 2200 block of Rogene Drive on July 21 most likely was caused by an electrical malfunction.

Chief Dalton's supplemental report concurred with the findings of a private consultant hired by the judge's insurance company, which found that the fire started in the kitchen ceiling where a light fixture and wiring were attached and was caused by an unidentified electrical malfunction in either the light fixture or in the wiring.

Chief Dalton's report said that the Baltimore Police Department crime lab took seven samples from the areas where the fire investigator believes the blaze started.

All of the samples tested negative for the presence of a fire accelerant like a flammable liquid.

A forensic chemist said the burn pattern observed by the fire investigator, which led him to believe a flammable liquid had been used, could have been produced by the toluene-based glue that was used to fasten tiles to the floor.

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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