Flammable items near furnace caused fire that killed five

Fire officials say Baltimore blaze began in basement

November 08, 2012|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Combustible materials stored too close to a furnace burst into flames and caused the October rowhouse fire that claimed five lives, Baltimore fire officials said Thursday.

Investigators determined that the two-alarm fire began in the basement and spread quickly through the two-story brick home, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman. The chilly evening may have prompted the family to turn on the furnace, he said.

The fire struck in the early morning hours of Oct. 11 and quickly destroyed 5601 Denwood Ave., an end-of-group home in the Frankford neighborhood. Dozens of firefighters battled heavy smoke and flames, and two were injured in a fall.

Three adults and an infant — who was tossed out a second-story window to a family member — survived. But Nancy Worrell, three grandchildren ages 2 to 7 years, and her 1-year-old great-grandson died in a second-floor bedroom.

Wilson Worrell, 52, Nancy Worrell's husband, jumped from the second floor. He was recently released from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was treated for burns and a broken back, said his mother, Barbara Hopkins.

"His burns are healing, and he is on the mend," Hopkins said.

Fire officials urged residents to keep combustible materials such as paint, paper, household cleaners and rags at least three feet away from heat-producing appliances, and to never store gasoline and other flammable materials in a home.

"Everything has a temperature at which it will ignite," Cartwright said.

Officials reached their determination on the cause of the fire after nearly a month investigating the scene and forensic evidence, as well as holding interviews with first responders, witnesses and survivors.

Fire investigators found no evidence of smoke detectors in the home.

Anyone needing a smoke alarm should call 311, fire officials said. Within two hours, firefighters will arrive and install a smoke alarm on each level of the home.


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