Mark Thompson woke up early yesterday morning when his grandmother banged on his bedroom door. She had smelled smoke wafting up from the basement and wanted to get him out of the burning house.
The pair escaped, but their landlord, John Hart, was unable to get out. Thompson said Hart's body was found in the basement, where he lived.
Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the city Fire Department, said a man died in the early-morning fire in the 3100 block of Cedarhurst Road in Northeast Baltimore. But Cartwright could not confirm the victim's name. The state medical examiner's office said yesterday that Hart's body was taken for an autopsy, which was pending yesterday afternoon.
Investigators were trying yesterday to determine how the fire started. Thompson said Hart was a smoker.
"He was a cool guy," said Thompson, 20. "A real smart, intelligent dude."
Thompson was amazed that his grandmother smelled smoke, because she sleeps on the second floor. "I'm thankful that she came down," Thompson said, standing on the waterlogged porch.
The two fled, but Thompson ran back into the burning house to snatch a phone so he could call for help. He said he told the 911 operator that a man was in the basement.
Firefighters arrived about 4:15 a.m. and noticed thick smoke coming from the basement, Cartwright said.
The blaze did not spread beyond the basement, and the home's upper two floors were habitable, Cartwright said.
The front porch and walkway were littered with shards of broken glass, which Thompson said was caused by firefighters' smashing windows to let out smoke.
Thompson said working smoke detectors were in the home, but he didn't recall hearing them until he and his grandmother were outside the house.