Woman dies in fire that destroys Southwest Baltimore rowhouse

Five escape blaze

relative says victim, 67, `always scared of fires'

January 07, 2003|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

A fire ripped through a two-story rowhouse in Southwest Baltimore early yesterday, killing a 67-year-old woman and leaving five people homeless in the middle of winter.

Mildred Jean Dishman, a Baltimore native who families members say devoted her life to raising five children and helping raise 15 grandchildren, was found dead in her home at 328 S. Calhoun St. Firefighters extinguished the two-alarm blaze about 5:55 a.m., an hour and 40 minutes after they arrived.

As fire officials investigated the cause of the fire yesterday, family members and neighbors huddled near a heap of charred rubble in front of Dishman's home, struggling to find answers. Several said that Dishman, who was particularly fearful of fires, had a nightly routine of checking her stove burners and making sure all the lights and appliances were turned off in her home.

"She was very particular about turning everything off," said Dishman's daughter-in-law, Delores Dishman, 32. "She was in a fire when she was younger, probably around 8 or 9 [years old]. She was always scared of fires."

Mildred Dishman's husband, daughter, daughter's boyfriend and two grandchildren were able to escape through second-floor windows and were treated at University of Maryland Medical Center for minor injuries, relatives said.

The fire began about 4 a.m., when one neighbor said she heard a "big boom." Flames burst through windows where Dishman's family members had escaped, eyewitnesses said.

Neighbors tried to enter the front door to save Mildred Dishman, but the fire was too intense.

"It just went up too fast," said Delores Dishman, who lives across the street from where the fire occurred.

Mildred Dishman was remembered by neighbors and family as a gentle, soft-spoken woman who loved to play the lottery and was quick to offer a helping hand.

"If you needed her for anything, she was there," said Ruth Mosmiller, 72, who lives across the street from Dishman's home.

Paul DeLuca, 34, who lives next door, was one of the men who tried to enter the house to save her. "There is nothing anyone could say bad about her," said DeLuca, whose home was damaged by smoke.

Mildred and Ben Dishman, her husband of 37 years, moved to the rowhouse from another part of the city 15 years ago. She is survived by her husband, three sons, two daughters and 15 grandchildren.

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