Fire displaces drug treatment center

Two rowhouses in Southwest Baltimore heavily damaged yesterday by morning blaze


A two-alarm fire heavily damaged two Southwest Baltimore rowhouses and forced out 24 residents of a treatment program for drug addicts, city fire officials reported.

The fire broke out about 10 a.m. in a vacant house in the 2200 block of Sidney Ave. and quickly spread to an adjacent house used as a residential treatment center. Two other houses used by the drug program sustained smoke and water damage.

Frank Hazzard, a battalion chief for the Baltimore Fire Department, said no injuries were reported and that the cause of the fire was being investigated. He said about 70 firefighters fought the blaze, which took less than an hour to bring under control.

Edward M. Vogt, a detective with the Baltimore Police Department's arson unit, said that at least two of the rowhouses - one of the group homes and the vacant house in which the fire started - would be condemned.

The fire displaced all 24 residents of the "I Say No 2" group homes, said Guy Wright, who owns the three rowhouses and runs the treatment program.

After the fire was extinguished, Wright was on his cell phone calling other local group homes and nonprofits trying to find places where the 24 displaced residents could stay.

"We need all the help we can get," he told a reporter.

The fire started in the vacant house and spread to the adjacent rowhouse, where Benjamin Hawkins was watching television and two other men were sleeping.

Hawkins said he called 911 when he smelled smoke and saw fire coming from the first-floor window of the vacant house. The three men fled.

"I don't know what I'm going to do now," said Hawkins, who has resided at the group home for about two months. "I just lost all my clothes. I lost everything I owned."

Wright said he started "I Say No 2" in 2000 after his oldest brother, a heroin addict, tested HIV-positive. The program lasts six months to a year and includes drug treatment, HIV testing and job training. Wright said he and his staff have helped more than 3,000 men, either in the homes or through referral.

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