Mother of infant who died in house fire rebuts accusation that home was unsafe

February 22, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The mother of an infant girl who died in a Northeast Baltimore house fire last week lashed out yesterday at accusations that she maintained an unsafe home.

Brenda Ann Heil called a news conference yesterday outside the boarded-up house where she and three of her children shared a third-floor apartment. She denied accusations made last week by Mary Troutman, a schools social worker at Glenmount Elementary/Middle School.

Troutman said Heil's apartment was "filthy" and had "hard-to-access living quarters," with a narrow staircase.

"Where does she get off saying my house was filthy when she'd never been in it?" said Heil, 39.

Heil said Troutman visited once and never fully went inside. She said Troutman's assertions were based on dog excrement on the landing. Heil also said she always had food and that she cared for her children.

Heil then tearfully recounted how the fire started last Sunday in the two-bedroom apartment. She said her two sons, ages 4 and 13, shared one room and that her 5-month-old daughter slept in a crib in her room.

Heil said her 4-year-old started the fire with a lighter he found in her pillowcase, where it was hidden with her cigarettes. She said she awoke to flames about 9 a.m. She said she fought the fast-moving fire with water -- there was no fire extinguisher -- before joining her children outside. It was then she realized that no one had retrieved her daughter.

She said she twice tried to save the infant.

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