Man trapped, killed in fire at rowhouse

Intense flames delayed search-and-rescue effort

Cause not immediately known

Four family members escape unhurt from blaze

January 10, 2004|By Reginald Fields | Reginald Fields,SUN STAFF

A 74-year-old disabled man was trapped and killed in a rapidly spreading fire in his East Baltimore rowhouse yesterday, while four other family members - including two children - escaped unharmed, fire officials said.

The fire was reported just before 6 p.m. in the 500 block of N. Castle St., two blocks from the Northeast Market. Firefighters had not determined last night what caused the fire or where it started, and they had not ruled out foul play.

Three rowhouses on either side of the burned building were also gutted by the blaze. All were vacant, firefighters said.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was unable to walk and might have used a wheelchair, Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said. The victim was found in a room on the first floor.

Once on the scene, firefighters knew that someone was trapped inside, but intensifying flames forced them back, delaying a search-and-rescue effort, Cartwright said. A second alarm for more manpower was sounded.

"I came around the corner and just saw flames jumping from the top of those houses," said Cynthia Thompson, pointing to the burning homes.

Thompson lives several doors from the fire in an adjoining rowhouse and was told by firefighters that her family might have to evacuate because the fire appeared to be spreading. They did not have to leave.

Thompson's husband, Tyrone Thompson, helped an elderly woman, her niece and the niece's two children - ages 2 and 5 - escape out the back of the burning house.

"But he told me they couldn't get inside to get to the old man because of the fire," she said. Thompson said neighbors called the victim by a nickname, Frenchie.

"He was a nice man, but he was sickly, always sick," Thompson said.

Firefighters, including arson investigators, were on the scene hours later trying to determine what started the fire - the fourth deadly blaze in Baltimore in less than two weeks.

Two siblings died in a fire in their family's West Baltimore rowhouse on New Year's Day. The children, Diamond Van Dyke, 9, and Anthony Van Dyke III, 6, were home alone in the 2900 block of Windsor Ave. when the fire started, authorities said.

The previous day, a fire started by a candle in a bathroom of an East Baltimore rowhouse killed 11-year-old Davon Dortch and left his brother, Fidel Russel, 7, in critical condition.

And earlier this week, firefighters found two bodies inside a burning storefront in the 6300 bock of Eastern Ave. The victims, a man and woman, had been stabbed and choked, and authorities were trying to determine whether they died before the fire started.

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