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Baltimore woman, 4-year-old girl dead; 5-year-old in critical condition after overnight house fire

A woman and a 4-year-old girl were killed — and a 5-year-old girl was in critical condition — after a house fire Wednesday morning in Northeast Baltimore, the Fire Department said.

Firefighters were called about 1 a.m. to the fire in the 700 block of E. Cold Spring Lane in the Richnor Springs neighborhood, department spokeswoman Blair Skinner said.

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The cause of the fire is under investigation. The Fire Department did not immediately release the names of the woman and children.

A neighbor, Carmelita Sykes, 52, said she woke up around 1 a.m. to the smell of smoke and sprinted downstairs. She stepped out onto her front steps and saw a giant yellowish-black plume coming from the burning home up the block. Firetrucks lined the street, which was closed during the pre-dawn operation, she said.

“You should’ve seen how thick that smoke was,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

Sykes watched a firefighter carry the badly burned woman out the front door and lay her down so medics could try to resuscitate her. The 4-year-old was carried out next, she said.

She said she thought of her own 4-year-old granddaughter, who was asleep upstairs. She remembered the children greeting her cheerily when they saw her mowing the lawn.

“They were such cute and happy kids,” Skyes said. “When they’d get out of the car, they’d always smile and wave. They were very mindful; they would always do what Mom said.”

She called the mother a hardworking woman and a good mother.

“All you’d see her do is go to work,” Sykes said. “She was on a mission, to take care of those beautiful babies. … All I can do is pray God lets them into the kingdom of heaven.”

Recardo Stinnette, 52, who lives around the corner on Richwood Avenue, heard a man shouting in the back alley around 1 a.m. and peered out his rear bedroom window across the alley as smoke billowed in the dark.

“A guy had pulled up here, ran down the back of the alley, knocking on the person’s door, yelling, ‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’” he said. “He kept on banging and banging until the firetrucks and police and everything came.”

Firefighters used a ladder to break a window and drilled a hole in the roof to get inside, he said.

“They had no way of getting out,” he said.

A mattress, a bed frame and a pink piggy bank lay among the family’s belongings strewn in the backyard Wednesday morning, as clear plastic tarps flapped in the breeze in place of broken-out windows.

Ice covered the grass in Stinnette’s front yard near a fire hydrant, and a few neighbors left their cars idling to warm up in the bitter cold as the sun rose Wednesday.

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Barbara Harris, 54, has been living in Richnor Springs for two years. While she didn’t know the family personally, the neighborhood is close-knit, and residents help each other dig out the sidewalks after snowstorms, she said.

“It’s a sad thing,” she said.

Baltimore has had 27 fire-related deaths this year, the most in at least the last five years. The city had 16 fire deaths in 2016.

Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Skinner attributed the rise, in part, to the Jan. 12 blaze on Springwood Avenue that killed six of the Malone family’s children in one night. A March fire killed four senior citizens at a Northwest Baltimore assisted-living facility.

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