Fire in Owings Mills leaves 40 homeless

It spread to 2 buildings, destroying apartments

April 14, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

A three-alarm fire at the Morningside Heights housing complex in Owings Mills yesterday destroyed more than a dozen apartments and left about 40 people homeless.

The fire began about 3 p.m. in a third-floor bedroom in Building 133 in the complex on Pleasant Ridge Drive, off Reisterstown Road.

Residents were able to escape unharmed, but an asthmatic resident of a nearby building suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Sinai Hospital. A firefighter was taken to Northwest Hospital Center for a minor case of heat exhaustion, said Lt. Vernon S. Adamson, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman.

Adamson said fire officials think that a mattress caught firewhen a young boy and girl who live in the apartment were playing with a lighter in the bedroom.

William and Linda Johnson were in their ground-floor unit when they said the girl ran downstairs shouting, "Our house is on fire!"

"We just pulled the alarm to get everyone in the building out," said Linda Johnson.

The blaze raged through Building 133 and into the adjoining Building 135, completely destroying more than a dozen apartments and causing extensive smoke damage in the rest of the two buildings' 30 units. The fire caused a partial collapse of the third floor, Adamson said.

By 5 p.m., the 100 firefighters at the scene had contained the blaze. At the complex's leasing office, Red Cross volunteers offered food to evacuated residents, who watched as their burned-out homes appeared on the television news.

Residents without relatives to stay with would be put up in vacant apartments at the complex or in area motels, said volunteer Terry Chessler.

As they surveyed the blackened shell of their building, Marva and Mildred Stewart worried most about the room that their mother had turned into a shrine for their brother, Joseph Stewart, who was killed in Park Heights in 1998. Their ground-floor apartment had been spared the worst of the fire, but they feared smoke and water may have damaged their mother's photos of her son.

"Those are her memories," said Marva Stewart, 22. "They're obviously irreplaceable."

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