Five killed in Md. blazes

Girl, 11, dies trapped in burning rowhouse in S.W. Baltimore

Food in trash started fire

2 children, two adults also lose lives in home on the Eastern Shore

November 29, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

At least five people -- three of them children -- were killed in fires across Maryland yesterday, including an 11-year-old girl who was trapped on the second floor of her Southwest Baltimore rowhouse as she ran for water to douse the blaze.

Police identified the girl as Laura Ashley Newton of the 500 block of S. Gilmor St.

Laura had run upstairs to get water for her mother, Theresa Newton, to put out a kitchen fire. She was declared dead at the scene of the fire.

"She was saying, `Help me! Help me!,' " said Tommy Ragner, a neighbor who tried to rescue the girl from a second-floor window.

Bars were on the window and Ragner said he reached in to hold the girl's hand while waiting for firefighters.

"I kept telling her, `Hold on, sweetheart,' " said Ragner, 36. "Then she just stopped talking and her hand fell out of my hand."

A short time later, firefighters, who were called at 12: 34 p.m., found Laura dead on the second floor of the house.

On the Eastern Shore, two children died in a fire at their Pocomoke City home. Two other people also were killed in that fire, which broke out about 4: 10 a.m. on Fourth Street.

Five others escaped the blaze, according to the state fire marshal in Worcester County.

The names of the children and the man and the woman who died were not released, pending notification of relatives, the fire marshal's office said.

Also yesterday, a three-alarm fire burned out a vacant rowhouse in the 2200 block of W. North Ave. in West Baltimore and damaged three others, according to fire communications.

One of the other buildings was occupied, but no injuries were reported.

Firefighters were called to the scene about 2 p.m. and had the blaze under control at 3: 35 p.m., fire officials said.

Authorities said the incident is under investigation.

In the Southwest Baltimore fire, investigators suspect that hot food might have ignited the rowhouse blaze.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres said the girl's mother was heating food in a microwave. When she took it out, it was so hot she threw it into a garbage can, where it apparently started a fire, he said.

Newton and her daughter tried to put out the fire. Laura, Torres said, repeatedly ran to an upstairs bathroom to get water to throw on the fire.

During one of these trips, she became trapped.

The child's mother ran screaming into the street for help and caught the attention of Ragner, a neighbor across the street.

Ragner and another neighbor, Darnell Barham, 39, went through the front door to try to get Laura out, but heavy smoke forced them to turn back.

It was then that Ragner climbed onto the roof of a porch in the back of the building and broke out a window.

Laura "was always such a good little girl," said neighbor Vicki Cooke, 35, as neighborhood children put together a memorial of teddy bears and flowers.

Neighbors said that Laura attended Edgecombe Circle Elementary School and loved to draw -- especially pictures of Teletubbies.

"She was the sweetest little girl," said neighbor Mil Goodrich, 30.

"We all loved her."

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