Mother dies after saving children from blaze

Boy, girl suffer injuries and burns in city fire

cause under investigation

May 28, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A 30-year-old woman apparently helped her children escape from their burning Northeast Baltimore rowhouse early yesterday before she collapsed and died, fire officials said.

Yolanda Russell was pronounced dead at the scene, in the 4300 block of Roberton Ave., a day before her 31st birthday. Her children, Jasmine, 9, and Darren, 8, suffered burns and minor injuries.

Their mother "was found in the front bedroom, just below the window," Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres said. "Apparently, she was overcome by the heat and smoke."

An autopsy is planned and the cause of the one-alarm fire is under investigation, he said.

The blaze started downstairs in the living room shortly before midnight and forced the evacuation of at least three neighbors in adjoining rowhouses. It was brought under control within 45 minutes, Torres said.

Neighbors said they never heard an alarm. They woke to the sound of Darren Russell screaming for help.

"It was terrible. Everybody was waiting for [Yolanda Russell] to come out," said Martin Church, 39, who lives across the street and saw the fire. "The neighbors were trying to keep the kids from going back into the house for their mother."

The Russell children were taken by ambulance to the burn unit at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Jasmine sustained minor burns and was released to the custody of a relative, Torres said.

Darren, who suffered second-degree burns to 15 percent of his body, was transferred to the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Trauma Center. He was in fair condition yesterday.

Russell and her children moved to the quiet neighborhood of brick rowhouses about three months ago, Church said.

The rowhouse sustained about $35,000 in damage. About $10,000 worth of property was lost, Torres said. Firefighters found a smoke detector among the building's charred remains but were unable to find a battery, he added.

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