Woman and 2-year-old son perish in E. Oliver Street fire

Witnesses say mother collapsed amid smoke, flames before she could drop child to safety


The woman lingered a few seconds at a second-story window of her Baltimore rowhouse, cradling her young child amid climbing flames and billowing smoke. On the street below, bystanders called out to her to toss the child to them.

But before she could act yesterday, Lisa Washington collapsed as her home on East Oliver Street burned, her child, Tyrese Jones, still in her arms, according to a witness.

"At the second she was about to drop the baby, she fell," said Tricey Carlos, 20, who was walking down the street when she saw the fire and called 911 on her cell phone.

"The smoke had gotten up there," Carlos said, "but the fire hadn't gotten up there yet."

Firefighters rushed to attack the blaze and went into the brick home's scorched interior with a search-and-rescue team and a water line. Five men and women had escaped by jumping from windows on the first and second floors, fire officials said.

But fire crews couldn't get to the mother and her child in time. Washington, 25, and her 2-year-old son were found dead on the second floor of the home in the 2300 block of E. Oliver St., according to relatives and fire officials.

Investigators said they were trying to determine the cause of the fire, which they believe might have started on the first floor shortly before 10 a.m. There was no preliminary indication that the fire had been set, officials said.

Detectors not found`Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman, said records showed that firefighters had installed two smoke detectors in the home in February 2004. But investigators could not find them in the debris, he said.

One survivor did not require medical treatment, but four others were taken to hospitals and treated, Cartwright said. There was no word last night on their conditions. A firefighter suffered burns on his leg during the incident and was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Cartwright said.

As firefighters put out the fire, dozens of neighbors and passers-by gathered at the home near North Patterson Park Avenue. Relatives of the dead woman and child began arriving at the home and learned of the deaths.

The woman's sister, Rochelle Washington, 26, fainted on the sidewalk about 50 feet away from the still-smoldering home. Police and fire officials rushed to treat her, and she came to about a minute later. Washington, along with other relatives, then went on a tirade, screaming at some of the people who had survived the fire but had not saved her sister and nephew


"Bums!" she repeatedly yelled at them. Another relative of Washington's briefly chased a woman wrapped in a sheet, who she said was one of the survivors. Police told some of the survivors to leave the scene to avoid further confrontation.

"All I know is that those bums made it out, and she didn't make it," an angry Washington said later. "My sister and nephew are dead. ... I can't believe this. This is not even real."

Rented the house

She said her sister rented the home in the city's Broadway East neighborhood but was allowing others to live there.

"How did they manage to get out?" Washington said of the four survivors. She said that her sister had let some people live with her because she felt sorry for them.

"She's so nice [that] she let them in," Washington said. "I kept on telling her, `Keep them away.'"

Including yesterday's victims, five people have died in fire-related incidents in Baltimore this year, compared with three deaths in the similar period last year, Cartwright said. Last year, 21 people died in fires in Baltimore, compared with 29 fatalities in 2004.gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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