Fire leaves 30 tenants homeless

Candle started blaze at Woodlawn complex

March 17, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A fire sparked by a lighted candle ripped through a Woodlawn apartment building early yesterday, leaving more than 30 people homeless and injuring five, fire officials said.

The four-alarm fire, which took more than three hours to control, destroyed at least a dozen of the 28 units in the Town and Country Apartments building in the 7100 block of Rolling Bend Road. Fire officials said the injuries, including two to firefighters, were minor.

Fire was shooting from the building when firefighters arrived about 12:30 a.m., and supervisors quickly called a second alarm, officials said. The blaze was brought under control just before 4 a.m.

Officials estimated the damage at $1.2 million.

By late morning, residents were loading their cars with whatever belongings they managed to salvage from the fire, which left a large portion of the building charred. Friends and family streamed to the scene throughout the morning, lending moral support or a place to stay.

Residents said yesterday that they were awakened by shouting shortly after midnight. Some bolted outside with the clothing on their backs and nothing else.

Alemu Teraso managed to grab his wallet after he heard the yelling and looked outside to see the building engulfed in flames.

"The first thing I [did] was run away," he said yesterday.

He said he expected to stay at a local hotel for a few nights.

Several of the displaced residents were moved to about 15 vacant apartments in the complex, according to American Red Cross workers on the scene. The organization was working yesterday with 36 people, helping them find lodging and providing them with basic supplies, said Ruth Tyler, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross of Central Maryland.

Mainly, she said, the Red Cross was trying to help the residents "make sense out of the chaos," she said.

"With situations like that, people are frustrated. They're angry," she said. " ... There's a sense of, `What do I do next?'"

Sun staff writer Rebecca McClay contributed to this article.

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