Christmas Eve fire kills man, dog

Piles of debris, paint cans impeded firefighters in Mount Clare rowhouse

December 26, 2007|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

A man and his dog died in a Southwest Baltimore house fire Monday night, city fire officials said yesterday.

About 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, firefighters responded to reports of smoke at an alley house in the 300 block of S. Norris St. in the Mount Clare neighborhood.

While working to extinguish the heavy fire in the rear of the Formstone-clad rowhouse, firefighters were impeded by floor-to-ceiling piles of debris - mostly towers of empty paint cans and piles of aluminum cans - that littered the two-story dwelling, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, Fire Department spokesman.

A man weighing about 300 pounds and believed to be in his 40s was found unconscious on the floor of the upstairs bathroom, along with his dog, according to Cartwright.

Because of the victim's size, firefighters had to knock down a wall between the bathroom and an upstairs room, and take the man out a window.

The man was taken to the emergency room of University of Maryland Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Officials said they are not releasing the victim's name, pending notification of relatives.

Kathleen Howlett, who lives next door, said she called 911 Monday night after smelling smoke and seeing "roaring" flames.

She said the victim had lived in the house for at least six years and rarely ventured outside, except to walk his dog.

"Mostly he was an inside person," Howlett said yesterday, while inspecting water-related damage to her own house. "This is just a bad Christmas."

Yesterday, towering stacks of five-gallon paint cans, cardboard boxes and hundreds of soda and beer cans were visible throughout the charred home.

Howlett said the victim's father was at the scene last night. "He took the news real hard," she said.

Howlett said she saw what she assumed were looters morning rummaging through the debris and carting away boxes yesterday.

Cartwright said the fire apparently began in the first-floor kitchen, but the cause has not been determined. There were no smoke detectors in the house, he said.

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