- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003


  BALTIMORE — A fire in a four-story apartment building before dawn yesterday killed one person and injured eight others who jumped from upper floors to escape the flames, authorities said.
  Investigators said they hadn’t confirmed the dead person’s identity.
  The eight adults and children were hospitalized with broken bones and other injuries after jumping from the second and third stories of the building, Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said.
  Eyewitnesses said adults dropped children from the west Baltimore building to neighbors holding blankets and sheets below.
  “It was horrific,” said Ellisha Peterson, 26, who was rescued with her boyfriend and three young children from their third-floor apartment by a firetruck ladder. A nurse’s aide, she said she watched her neighbors jumping from their windows.
  Her boyfriend, Cory Clacken, said firefighters managed to save them as the family stood on their balcony and thick, black smoke filled their apartment.
  “It was in my mind to jump,” said Mr. Clacken, 27, a teacher’s aide. “If there was no balcony, we’d have died.”
  About 90 firefighters and emergency workers battled the fire, which was reported about 2:45 a.m. and wasn’t contained until 5:50 a.m., Mr. Cartwright said.
  No firefighters were hurt.
  Robert Blue, 19, lived in a first-floor apartment and was able to get out safely. As he tried to help two children hurt when the bedsheet they clung to ripped, dropping them to the ground, he said their mother fell on his head.
  Mr. Blue said he blacked out. But by late morning, he returned to the neighborhood from a hospital with a limp and a bandage on his forehead.
  Teresa Hicks, who lives in the building, said she saw a man help his four children and wife to the ground before catching fire himself.
  “I saw the flames come up his back,” Miss Hicks said. “Then he burst into flames and slumped over in the window.”
  About 60 people were displaced by the fire, including 36 children, said Reginald Scriber, Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development ombudsman.
  The Red Cross distributed food and clothes from the basement of a nearby church yesterday morning.
  Residents of the building’s undamaged wing were allowed to return to their apartments about 9 a.m. But Mr. Scriber said Red Cross and housing department officials were struggling to find rooms at area hotels for so many displaced people.
  “And I think most of these people will not be able to go back,” he said.
  Mr. Cartwright said investigators from the Baltimore Police Department, city Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were searching the building for clues to the fire’s cause.
   The process was complicated by the collapse of the building’s second and third floors, he said.
  

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