Rowhouse fire in Rosemont leaves 19 homeless Investigators think blaze started under front porch

December 19, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

At least 19 people were homeless yesterday after a morning fire burned seven rowhouses in West Baltimore's Rosemont neighborhood, destroying some and badly damaging others.

Fire investigators had not determined a cause by yesterday afternoon, but they said they believe the fire began under a front porch at 1628 N. Warwick Ave. and spread quickly. When firefighters arrived about 5: 30 a.m., they reported several porches ablaze.

No injuries were reported, but distraught residents stood across the street from their burned homes and watched as firefighters piled their charred belongings on the sidewalk.

"I lost everything," said Renzy White, 78, who had been preparing for a funeral reception for one of his daughters and had food for 30 people on his kitchen table. The retired asphalt worker has lived at 1632 N. Warwick Ave. since 1948.

"I was in the kitchen making breakfast when my alarm went off and I came into the living room and heard fire cracking," said White, who was forced to postpone the funeral until Monday. "Then I saw heavy smoke."

White woke his 44-year-old daughter and escaped out the back. A fire investigator said a woman who saw the flames ran up the block and knocked on doors. "We don't know who she is," the investigator said.

About 60 firefighters battled the three-alarm fire for about 40 minutes before bringing it under control at 6: 19 a.m. The houses damaged were 1626 to 1638 N. Warwick Ave.

Some were destroyed, but in others, only the front rooms and porches were burned out, fire officials said.

The Red Cross and West Baltimore Neighborhood Service Center were helping people who needed shelter.

"All I got is what I got on," said Andre Tyler, who lives with his uncle at 1628 N. Warwick Ave., where the fire is believed to have started. He said his uncle was at work and he was standing at a bus stop when he saw a fire engine turn onto his street.

"At first I didn't pay any attention," said Tyler, 28, who lost a cat, Lexus, in the blaze. "But then I saw smoke, and I ran back to see what it was. I called my aunt and I told her, 'The whole block is on fire.' "

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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