Fire in Glen Burnie complex routs 37, injures 2 firefighters

Neighbors scramble to alert and evacuate residents

blaze investigated

August 31, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

Edwin Whittington, a 34-year-old construction worker and father of four, left his soaked and smoky Glen Burnie apartment yesterday with just six pictures: he and his wife on a cruise to St. Thomas in 2004, and snapshots of their children.

It was all he could salvage after a fire that began on the third floor of their building early yesterday destroyed their basement-level dwelling -- and left the 23 adults and 14 children who lived in the building without a home.

Everyone escaped uninjured, thanks to Whittington and other residents who helped evacuate neighbors, but two firefighters were injured, fire officials said. The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but did not appear suspicious, authorities said.

"I'll tell you right now, honey, it's really hard," Whittington said by cell phone as he shopped for clothing in a Wal-Mart store yesterday using a Red Cross-issued voucher. "I can't even cry my eyeballs out anymore."

Anne Arundel County firefighters were dispatched at 2:36 a.m. to Woodside Apartments in the 7800 block of Woodside Terrace and found the roof of a building engulfed in flames, said Lt. Alex Makris, a Fire Department spokesman. A nearby building that is part of the complex was evacuated as a precaution.

The fire was under control by 4 a.m., but less than an hour later, as firefighters worked to prevent flare-ups, one of them, Justin Davidson, fell three stories when the building's roof collapsed. Davidson, a five-year veteran, was flown by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center where he was treated and released, officials said.

Debbi Sosnoski, a 20-year veteran, was injured when a second-floor ceiling collapsed on her, Makris said. She had cuts to her face and neck, as well as back and chest pain, and was released after treatment at Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

Joy Martinez, a 24-year-old mother of two young children, said the fire started in the bathroom of her third-floor apartment. She said she saw flames coming from a fan vent in the bathroom that she had asked the building's maintenance to fix earlier in the week.

"It was all on fire," said Martinez, who fled her apartment with her 2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. "It was all melting away."

She said that about 11 that night, the lights and her television "would cut on and off," and there was an odor "like something was smoky." But the smell disappeared, she said, and she went to bed.

The management for the apartment complex could not be reached yesterday.

The Red Cross provided food, clothing, shelter and mental health services for the displaced, said its spokeswoman, Linnea Anderson.

Whittington's stepson, Dimitri Weston, 19, who was outside smoking a cigarette when he saw flames on the building's roof, alerted his father and pulled a hallway fire alarm.

Whittington and neighbor Aveus Bush Sr. knocked on apartment doors to alert residents, then tried to quell the fire with an extinguisher in the hallway. But they had to evacuate before they were overtaken, they said.

"There was a whole bunch of fire around us," said Bush, who does maintenance work and painting for a living. "I grabbed him and said, `We gotta get out of here.'"

Bush said he was moved, unhappily, into another apartment in the complex. His was severely damaged by smoke and water, and he cannot foresee paying the $1,000 monthly rent due later this week, Bush said -- not when his family is without clothing, furniture and food.

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