Three children die in city rowhouse fire

Woman, 45, injured in leap from second-story window

No smoke detector found in home

March 15, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A baby, a toddler and a 4-year-old were killed in a fire that ripped through an East Baltimore rowhouse early yesterday, the latest fatalities in a year that has seen a marked increase in city fire deaths.

The blaze in the 2400 block of E. Madison St. began shortly before 3:30 a.m. and engulfed the first and second floors. Firefighters found the children - a 1-month-old, 2-year-old and 4-year-old - in a second-floor bedroom, suffering from smoke inhalation and burns.

They were pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Firefighters were unable to provide the names of the children or their relationship to each other yesterday.

A 45-year-old woman, whose name was unavailable, was injured after jumping from a second-story window to escape the fire. She suffered a broken femur and back injuries and was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Norma Williams, 65, who lives two doors down from the home, said after the woman fled the fire, she heard her screaming, "Get the kids! Get the kids!"

"It was like a bonfire," Williams said. "The whole house was in flames in the back."

The deaths bring the number of fire fatalities in Baltimore this year to 18 - a pace far exceeding last year, when 27 people were killed in the entire year.

Kevin Cartwright, a city Fire Department spokesman, said the cause of the one-alarm fire is under investigation. Firefighters could not find a smoke detector in the two-story home.

"It is quite tragic in the sense that the community as well as the Fire Department is affected by any loss of life due to fire," Cartwright said. "What we do is try to continually educate the community and provide free safety tips as well as provide free smoke detectors. It is our desire that every household in the city have a smoke detector."

Yesterday, neighbors gathered around a pile of charred debris on the sidewalk outside the home - burned mattresses, clothes, books and furniture. They said the children were all boys and the woman who jumped from the house was the grandmother of two of them and the mother of the other. The mother of the two boys was not home at the time of the fire, they said.

Annette Gregory, 19, was heading to Evans Temple Memorial Church of God on Madison Street yesterday morning when she saw that her friend's home had been gutted by a fire.

Gregory, who lives in North Baltimore, said she immediately thought, "Did anybody die?" and, upon hearing of the children's deaths, began to cry. "All three babies?" she asked.

Neighbors said the two older boys often played along the street and rode their bikes.

"It's just unexplainable, it's very tragic to know that she lost her babies," said Donna Bryant, 44, who lives next door to the home that burned. She and her three children and grandchild are staying at housing provided by the Red Cross because her home sustained electrical and water damage.

Standing on her house's front steps, Williams said while she was sad for the family, she also felt lucky that the fire did not spread to her home. She was distressed that her neighbor's home didn't have a smoke detector.

"I wish people would learn to get smoke detectors," she said. "It could have saved them kids."

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