2nd fire fatality at seniors high-rise

One dead, five injured at city-owned tower in 2nd blaze in two months

March 15, 2003|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

For the second time in two months, a fatal fire broke out at a city-owned high-rise for senior citizens in North Baltimore last night, killing one person and injuring five others.

Dozens of seniors were forced outside in the chilly weather as firefighters battled the blaze at Lakeview Towers at 727 Druid Park Lake Drive, a twin-tower complex across from Druid Lake.

Firefighters, arriving at the scene shortly after getting the call at 6:40 p.m., found intense fire and heavy smoke billowing from the 10th floor of the high-rise, said Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Fire Department. It took 35 minutes to bring the blaze under control.

The apartment building, home to mostly senior citizens and disabled people, was built in 1970 before a code took effect that requires sprinklers in each apartment - making it exempt from the rules.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who was at the scene last night distributing bottled water to displaced residents, blamed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the lack of sprinklers in the high-rise. He said city officials had asked HUD for $1.5 million for a sprinkler system for the building.

That means little to residents like Leonard Carter, who once again found himself outside in the cold after a fire at the buidling.

"I've been upset since the first fire," said Carter, a retired machinist who lives on the eighth floor. "I'm 72 years old. I want to get in a better place. I'm not scared to stay here, but I just don't like what's going on. No alarms went off. Nothing. I looked out the window and saw the Fire Department. It's unsafe. Nothing is being done."

The identity of the person who died in last night's blaze was not available, Cartwright said. He said the body was so badly burned that officials had not yet determined the victim's gender.

Five people were taken to hospitals, three of them suffering from smoke inhalation and burns, and two with minor injuries, Cartwright said.

Names of those transported were not available last night.

Twylia WearrenM-5, 56, was killed in the Jan. 16 fire, which started in her third-floor apartment and also injured 13 others. A second person died later from injuries suffered in the fire.

Wearren was disabled, suffering from uncontrollable seizures, said her mother, Mozelle D. Dozier. Wearren, who lived alone, had worked for about 20 years at the American Tobacco Co. before quitting because of disability in the early 1990s, her mother said.

Shortly after the January fire, Melvin Edwards, a spokesman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City said the city had discussed putting sprinklers in the building, but noted it had no immediate plans to do so.

Cartwright said the cause of last night's fire, which consumed one 10th-floor apartment and spread a little to the building's 11th floor, is under investigation. He said 10th-floor residents were displaced as a result of the fire. The American Red Cross and Neighborhood Services arranged for them to stay in a local hotel, he said.

There were no reports of injuries to any firefighters.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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