Man killed in city fire

Wife in critical condition with second-degree burns

August 18, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

A 49-year-old city man died yesterday and his wife was critically injured in an early-morning fire at the Southeast Baltimore rowhouse where they lived, authorities said.

Firefighters found Dave and Louise Lewis unconscious in their second-floor apartment in the 3200 block of E. Fairmount Ave. shortly after the fire began about 1:30 a.m., said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman.

Both were rushed to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Dave Lewis was pronounced dead and his wife, who suffered second-degree burns, was in critical condition, Cartwright said. Her age was not available yesterday.

Investigators had not determined a cause of the fire, but Cartwright said flames and thick smoke were billowing from the first floor of the rowhouse when firefighters arrived. Neighbors said a woman and some children had moved into the first-floor apartment less than two weeks ago but were not home at the time of the fire.

The owner of the building had been doing electrical work at the home, neighbors said. Attempts to reach the landlord yesterday were unsuccessful.

"That house was going up and going up quick. ... It was big. It was huge," said Wally Krout, who has lived two houses away from the Lewises' rowhouse since 1984. Krout was in his bedroom watching TV when he heard loud noises and looked out the window. He saw the flames and ran from his home, banging on neighbors' doors to alert them to the fire.

Krout ran to the back alley, where the only entrance to the Lewis' home was. "The back door was so hot," Krout said. "And smoke and all was rushing out the back."

Hours later, as Krout stood near the burned rowhouse, its contents a charred pile of rubble on the sidewalk, he spoke of his friend and his attempt to save him. "My buddy died upstairs," said Krout, as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Family members and friends described Dave Lewis, nicknamed "Slappy," as hardworking and generous, fiercely loyal and resilient.

Lewis, one of six children, grew up in a rowhouse on North Clinton Street, around the corner from where he died. Lewis didn't attend school past his junior high and never learned to read, yet he mastered home renovation work, which he did most of his life, his family said.

His brother and sister-in-law, Mike and Nina Lewis, said they marveled at the skills he obtained without a formal education.

"He just learned from the guys he worked with," Nina Lewis said. "He just about remodeled my whole house. He was a good learner."

He married his longtime girlfriend, Louise, nicknamed "Weezie," two years ago on Valentine's Day. The two settled in the second-floor apartment on Fairmount. Neighbors remember the rowhouse as a bar called Shady Lady that closed several years ago and was converted into two apartments.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, doctors found tumors on Dave Lewis' stomach and liver. He underwent an operation to remove the cancer, but it weakened him to the point where he couldn't work anymore, his family said.

"He said he wasn't going to let it get him down," Nina Lewis said.

The Red Cross was assisting the woman who had lived in the first-floor Fairmount Avenue apartment, as well as 13 people who were left homeless after a fire in the 4900 block of Goodnow Road late Saturday.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.