Rowhouse blaze kills woman, 18-month-old boy

3 injured

Officials seek cause of West Baltimore fire

May 10, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Fire tore through a West Baltimore rowhouse early yesterday, killing a 58-year-old woman and an 18-month-old boy and injuring three others. The cause of the blaze has not been determined, but fire officials have ruled out arson.

The fire broke out about 5 a.m. in the 800 block of N. Payson St., in the middle of a block of two-story brick and Formstone rowhouses between Lafayette Avenue and Lanvale Street. The Fire Department said it took 20 minutes to bring the fire under control.

Alice Gaymon and her infant cousin, Anthony Brown, were pronounced dead at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Mary Williams, 76, was in fair condition last night at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body.

Romeo Jones, 66, broke his arm when he jumped from the second floor of the house and was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was also suffering from internal bleeding and is in critical condition.

A firefighter was treated at Bayview for minor steam burns to his face and released.

Fire officials said two smoke detectors sounded in the house, possibly preventing further casualties.

"It was pretty much engulfed when I came out," said Nathaniel Alexander, who lives next door to the burned rowhouse.

"There were flames shooting through the windows and glass breaking all over the place. We just grabbed what we could and got out."

None of the neighboring houses was damaged significantly.

The fire left the home a charred ruin, with furniture, books, clothing and other items piled in a black, jumbled heap on the front sidewalk. Late in the morning, workmen began putting plywood over the gaping windows.

On a block where the corner stores shield themselves in metal grating, merchants do business from behind security glass, and the spray-painted initials "R.I.P." serve as memorials, those who knew Alice Gaymon said she was a beacon of kindness, strength and religious faith.

Gaymon attended services almost daily at New Victory Church, a Pentecostal house of worship on nearby Riggs Avenue. She was a deaconess at the church and the superintendent of its Sunday school program.

John D. McRae Sr., New Victory's pastor, was Gaymon's nephew by marriage. He said Gaymon was an asset to the church.

"She was a loving person, totally committed to the Lord," he said. "You couldn't have a better member. Whatever I needed to be done, she did, and she did it with a smile."

Gaymon's granddaughter, Karen Edmonds, said, "She didn't play about our education. That's what kept me holding on, because I knew she knew God."

Gaymon was a food server in the cafeteria at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, where she was known as "Miss Alice."

"She was a very warm lady, beloved by the students and faculty," said Richard Traenkle, director of Notre Dame's dining services. "She knew their names and always recognized them by their name, not just as another student."

Seven people have died in fires in the city this year, compared with nine at the same time last year. The total fire toll last year was 19.

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