Passer-by kicks in door to save girl from fire woman dies upstairs

Smoke prevents man from reaching victim

October 24, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Brian Pettit was out for an afternoon stroll yesterday when he saw smoke coming from a rowhouse in Southeast Baltimore. It took three tries, but he managed to kick in the locked front door.

"I started yelling, 'Is there anyone in this house?' " Pettit said. "It was completely engulfed in smoke." Then he heard the faint cries of a girl who was trapped at the other end of the burning rowhouse.

rTC "I crawled back toward the kitchen," Pettit recalled. "I couldn't see a thing. When I found her, I made the mistake of standing up, and my lungs filled with smoke. I managed to get her out. She said her mother was upstairs asleep."

A woman who fire officials think is the girl's mother was found dead in an upstairs bedroom of the Canton house. The 13-year-old girl Pettit pulled to safety was not injured.

No cause has been determined for the fire in the 2200 block of Cambridge St., which was reported about 3: 15 p.m.

Inspector Michael Maybin, a Fire Department spokesman, credited Pettit with saving the child's life.

The girl suffers from a learning disability and apparently didn't know how to react, Maybin said.

Fire officials did not immediately release the name of the girl or the woman. Maybin said the victim's husband was not home at the time. The spokesman said the woman's identity had not been confirmed.

Maybin said it appeared that the fire had smoldered before it was reported.

Pettit said he saw light smoke coming from upstairs windows. He said the smoke was thick when he went inside.

After getting the girl out, Pettit tried to reach her apparent mother. "I could only get one or two feet in the door," he said.

By the time firefighters arrived, it was too late. They extinguished the fire in about 30 minutes, but not in time to save the woman.

"You feel like your hands are tied," Pettit said. "It's weird. You're put in a certain place at the right time."

Pub Date: 10/24/98

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