Four make rescues in Pigtown fire

Friends help man retrieve nephews

February 07, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A midmorning fire in Southwest Baltimore awakened the heroics in four young men yesterday, when they heard screams that sent them racing toward a two-story Formstone house engulfed in flames.

Angie Bicklin, 21, her face and hair burned, stood in front of her Pigtown house in the 1200 block of Sargeant St., crying for someone to get her three young sons from upstairs as the one-alarm fire raged.

It was her brother, Bruce A. Bicklin, 23, who led three friends down the street into the house, moments before Baltimore firefighters arrived on the scene about 10:30 a.m.

Bicklin managed to rescue two of his nephews before jumping from the second story, his fall through the black smoke broken by his friends below.

The third boy was brought to safety on the back roof by Penny Marshall -- who with Angie Bicklin was one of two adults inside the house -- and Joseph E. Schlick, 21, one of the four men who ran into the home.

Neighbors who witnessed the scene were awed at the brave dash by Bruce Bicklin, Schlick and two friends, James Hoggard and Robert Pringle.

"Bruce was the hero, and that's the God's honest truth," said Charity E. Burkhart, 19, who lives across the street. "It made me want to cry."

House destroyed

After the blaze was put out, the blackened house was declared a complete loss by fire investigators, who estimated the damage at $45,000.

Five people -- Bruce Bicklin, Angie Bicklin and her three sons, Glen, 6, Christopher, 4, and Jonathan, 1 -- were treated for smoke inhalation at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and released, fire and hospital officials said.

No smoke detector

Battalion Chief Antonio R. Thomas and Capt. Ray O'Brocki, an investigator, said the house did not have a smoke detector and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Bringing the fire under control took 20 minutes and required 40 to 50 firefighters, Thomas said.

Lt. Michael M. Maybin, the Fire Department's acting public information officer, said that when the call came in, people were reported trapped inside the house and when fire units arrived, all occupants were safely out of the house.

Neighbors said the house dog was missing. "Everything was happening so fast, we weren't wasting time when me and Bruce [Bicklin] ran upstairs," said Schlick, an auto glass installer who lives in nearby Morrell Park. "Jimmy [Hoggard] busted windows so that it helped to clear the air and make Bruce able to see where the children were."

Hoggard, a glazier, said he went running out his front door with his bathroom slippers on and a wet sweater wrapped around his head. "It went up quick," he said. "Fifteen minutes."

`He's like a brother'

Looking at his singed hands afterward, Hoggard said of Bicklin, "He's like a brother."

Schlick said there was an eerie parallel to his early life: When he was an infant he was carried from a burning house on West Lombard Street, a fire that killed his grandmother Betty Drury in 1981.

Yesterday, he said, he was on his way to look for work when, suddenly, the screams that set him and others on the way to becoming hometown heroes started.

"It was all-around lucky, you know what I mean," he said. "God's grace."

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