- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

12:44 p.m.

BALTIMORE — A fast-moving fire engulfed a row home in east Baltimore this morning, killing six and critically injuring five members of an extended family.

Fire Chief William Goodwin said it could “possibly be the worst scenario I’ve seen in my 32 years” as a firefighter.

Several victims were trapped inside the two-story brick row home and were burned so badly that firefighters were unable to determine their age or gender, Chief Goodwin said.

Neighbors said the family included some small children and teenagers.

The blaze was reported at 7:20 a.m., and firefighters arrived on the scene minutes later to find both floors of the home engulfed in flames. Three persons were rescued by firefighters, and three others managed to escape.

Of the victims who died, four were found in a second-floor bedroom, and one was at the base of the stairs. Another died at a local hospital.

Chief Goodwin said the heat from the fire was so intense that the victims died instantly.

“Something of this magnitude, you get one breath, that’s it,” he said. “You can’t breathe the superheated air. You can’t breathe the toxins.”

The owners of the home said they have tried since November to have the tenants evicted.

Roosevelt and Margaret Carlest said they had a month-to-month lease, signed Oct. 1, with a mother of two sons, one of whom was in a wheelchair.

The Carlests said they went to court twice, unsuccessfully, to have the tenants evicted for failing to pay rent. The Carlests said they knew several other people were staying at the house.

Neighbor Sylvia Matthews said she was awakened by a 5-year-old girl living at the home who banged on her door and said her house was on fire.

Another neighbor tried to enter the burning home from a rear door but was forced back by the heat, Miss Matthews said.

The home was in a low-income community of row homes directly across from the historic Green Mount Cemetery, a city landmark.

Fire officials said they believed the blaze started on the first floor. The cause was under investigation, and nothing was being ruled out. There was no evidence that the home had working smoke detectors.

Mayor Sheila Dixon said in a written statement that she was “very saddened” when she heard about the fire this morning. She also offered her condolences to all those involved and said the families of those killed are in her thoughts and prayers.

Mrs. Dixon said she has been in communication with Chief Goodwin and will continue to receive updates.

She also said she was “grateful for the professionalism and courage” displayed today by the city’s firefighters.

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