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Elijah Cummings' Baltimore rowhome catches fire

Congressman Elijah Cummings' West Baltimore rowhome caught fire Tuesday morning.  No one was at home at the time of the fire, which is still under investigation. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Rep. Elijah Cummings' West Baltimore rowhome caught fire Tuesday morning, a Fire Department spokesman said.

Firefighters were called to the three-story brick rowhome in the 2000 block of Madison Ave. at 10:42 a.m., where they found smoke coming from the roof, said department spokesman Samuel Johnson Jr. They placed the one-alarm blaze under control by 11 a.m.

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Windows were broken out on the second and third floors, while debris was piled on the sidewalk beneath a first-floor window holding an Obama '08 poster.

"I was in a Transportation Committee hearing when I learned about the fire at my house in Baltimore," Cummings said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. "The fire started on the third floor of the house and the Fire Department is investigating the cause. Thankfully, no one was home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries. I am grateful to all of those who have expressed their concern."

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Cummings did not return to Baltimore on Tuesday but was trying to get information about what had happened between votes in the House. With his cellphone at one ear, Cummings said he did not know the extent of the damage but believed the fire may have been caused by something a tenant left on the stove.

Cummings said the property is insured.

"When things like this happen, I do not ask the question, 'Why did it happen to me?' I ask the question, 'Why did it happen for me,'" Cummings said. "There's something to be gained from this. I don't know what it is yet."

Cummings owns the home, which is listed as his principal residence, according to state tax records. Neighbors said at least one tenant rents an apartment in the residence.

Meka Matthews, 35, a friend of a third-floor tenant, said fire officials told residents the fire started on a stove in the third-floor apartment.

"She says she left the stove off — made breakfast, turned it off, and left the house," Matthews said. "So they don't know if something triggered it or it was faulty. The front room and the kitchen is totally demolished."

Fire officials said the origin remains under investigation.

The American Red Cross of the Greater Chesapeake Region has responded to assist.

In speaking engagements and sometimes on the House floor, Cummings, 64, often discusses his neighborhood.

"When I go home at night, I see the houses that have been foreclosed upon — the people are gone," the Democrat said in a 2011 interview with The Baltimore Sun. "I talk to the people who can't find a job. I talk to the people who can't get medical care. I see this role as something far bigger than me."

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