"Nancy would never leave those children — I know that in my heart," said Hopkins. Her son, Wilson Worrell, was badly burned and may have suffered a broken back in the fall, she said.

"They were a great, big family," said Dana Lane, a former neighbor. Wilson Worrell was a mechanic and volunteered to fix Lane's truck. Nancy Worrell, Lane said, was "lots of fun."

"Even the children who had moved away came back all the time," Lane said. "The house was really the family headquarters. And, everyone liked to sit on the front porch."

Neighbors said Nancy Worrell swept that porch every morning, and would shout greetings down the block to strangers or ask whether family members were well.

Fenner said her mother really nurtured all children.

"She would never let a child go hungry," Fenner said. "She would always feed them. Her doors were open. She was like the Bea Gaddy of this neighborhood. She never let you leave without saying, 'See you later' and 'I love you always.'"

Nancy and Wilson Worrell were married for 27 years and had 14 children. They had moved to the neighborhood about two years ago from a home in South Baltimore, Fenner said.

Of James she said, "We just had a birthday party for him last week. Now I am trying to make funeral arrangements."

Laverne Hawkins, a former neighbor, described Nancy Worrell as "full of life" and the primary care-giver of the grandchildren. " I know that she died trying to save those kids," she said.

Her husband, Roger, added, "I believe she kept the family together. I still can't believe it. It hurts the heart. The children were all so sweet."

Daryl and Tykia attended Moravia Park Elementary School, family members said. "Tykia was a bright child with a wonderful smile and the school and community will be lessened by her passing," said Jeremy Cotton-Schmidt, who taught Tykia in first grade last year.

Fire investigators and police arson detectives were on the scene throughout the morning. Fire Marshal Raymond O'Brocki III said that "while the cause of the fire is still under investigation, early indications don't give rise to any suspicions of arson."

When asked about the cause of the fire, Cartwright said, "Preliminarily nothing boldly stands out to us that was incendiary, but we are investigating everything." He added that it's not surprising some area residents suspect foul play, since there were two arson cases in the neighborhood recently.

City Councilman Brandon Scott went back and forth between the house and a nearby school, where many family members were gathered. He received a call at 3 a.m. about a fire involving children. He knew which house it was, he said, as soon as he learned the street. "There were always children playing there."

He said, "All I can do is ask the entire city to wrap their arms around this entire family."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a condolence call to the school, too.

"We stand in support of the family as they try to pull through this tragedy," she said. "They shouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help."

Family members planned to set up a trust fund for supporters to donate to cover funeral costs.

In the rowhouse's backyard, a swing set sat under a large tree and several small ride-on toys remained, where children had left them. The back of the home was completely charred and the interior gutted. The large, single-pane window to the back bedroom — where five people died — was shut.

Goodman returned to the street mid-morning to ask firefighters if he could go back into the home. "I just wanted to see if there was anything left," said Goodman, who was dressed in a hooded sweat shirt and jeans, all the clothing he had.

But firefighters had already placed a large yellow sign at the entry: "emergency condemnation and demolition."

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance, Alison Knezevich, Kevin Rector and Erin Cox contributed to this article.


  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts