Thanksgiving fire tears through 6 rowhouses

cause being investigated

Early-morning blaze forces families from homes

firefighter hurt

November 23, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A four-alarm fire ripped through six rowhouses in Fells Point early yesterday, causing extensive damage and leaving four families homeless for Thanksgiving.

No residents were injured in the pre-dawn fire, but a firefighter suffered minor injuries to his back battling the blaze in the 2000 block of Eastern Ave. and was taken to Mercy Medical Center for treatment, fire officials said.

The blaze started about 3:15 a.m. on the rear second floor of a rowhouse at 2025 Eastern Ave., fire officials said, and quickly spread to five other rowhouses on Eastern Avenue.

Two of the rowhouses were heavily damaged by fire and water. The homes at 2021 and 2023 Eastern Ave. were destroyed.

No damage estimates were available yesterday. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Leilah Duncan, 55, who had lived at 2019 Eastern Ave. with her husband, Bill, two granddaughters and two dogs, said she had put the family's Thanksgiving turkey in the oven about 2 a.m. when 20 minutes later she heard her son-in-law, Ronnie Duncan, pounding at the door, yelling, "Get out! Get out! There's smoke next door."

Ronnie Duncan, a newspaper deliverer, said he was dropping off The Sun to homes and businesses along Eastern Avenue when he saw black smoke spewing from the front door and roof of 2021 Eastern Ave., next to his mother-in-law's home. He said he went door to door alerting his family and neighbors of the fire.

Fortunately, Ronnie Duncan said, residents of the affected homes were not home and his family members were able to get out.

"I told them, `You may have lost everything, but at least you're alive,' " he said.

A television, a collage of family photos and her husband's prized collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia were among the items Leilah Duncan salvaged yesterday from the home where she had lived for 25 years.

She said she had raised four daughters in the house and all of them, including nine of her 10 grandchildren, had planned to spend Thanksgiving together there.

"This was the first time that I had my girls together in 10 years," Duncan said, as she surveyed the fire's aftermath.

Furniture, clothes, drapes - everything in the house smelled like smoke. Water dripped from the ceiling. The floors were so soaked that the second-floor bathtub was on the verge of collapsing into the living room.

"Our Thanksgiving is ruined, but I'm just grateful to be alive," Duncan said.

She said the family will stay in Highlandtown with a daughter until next week.

Her insurance agent expects to have the family in a house by Thursday, Duncan said.

Doug Nelson, who lived at 2021 Eastern Ave., appeared equally stunned when he returned home yesterday to find a burnt, tangled mess of furniture and debris in front of his stoop.

He stood quietly and stared at the red sign on his front door that read: "Condemned."

"I had planned to watch football today," Nelson said, shaking his head.

Matt Behr, a cousin of a woman who lived at one of the rowhouses, arrived at the scene to see the damage.

He said his cousin is in the Virgin Islands visiting family. "I'm just thankful my cousin wasn't hurt," Behr said. "I send my sympathies to the residents in the other houses."

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