Baltimore City fire department fights fires in several homes in East Baltimore. (Algerina Perna & Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)

Several families were left wondering about the fate of their homes after a pair of multiple-alarm fires burned in East Baltimore within a short time of each other Thursday afternoon.

The first fire began on the 400 block of N. Clinton St. just before 3 p.m. It began on the second floor of one rowhouse and spread to the houses on either side, according to Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Skinner. The fire was confined to the roof of the structures, two of which were occupied and one was vacant.

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Firefighters had the fire under control within 30 minutes.

"They actually worked pretty quickly to extinguish the blaze," Skinner said.

But city firefighters soon had more work to do.

At 4 p.m., a new fire ignited on the 500 block of N. Lakewood Ave. and spread to four occupied rowhouses, Skinner said. First-responders were still on the scene at Clinton Street when other units arrived at the second fire.

At one point, embers from that fire sparked a new, smaller blaze, on a house in the next block. Firefighters quickly subdued that, but remained on the scene spraying water at 5 p.m.

Although the day was breezy, Skinner said wind was not a problem in putting out the fires. She said the cause of both fires was under investigation.

No injuries were reported in either fire. It was unclear Thursday evening whether any of the houses would be condemned.

The Red Cross said 21 people were affected by the first incident and 25 were affected by the Lakewood Avenue fire. Staff and volunteers were on hand Thursday to distribute debit cards to those affected by the fires, to help cover immediate expenses.

Several of the residents affected Thursday were Latino families, some of whom struggled to communicate in a language they didn't understand. James Herbert, a spokesman for the Red Cross said that Spanish-speaking interpreters would be available Friday to meet with families.

Late Thursday afternoon, Diana Alvarez, a native of Honduras, stood outside the Clinton Street rowhouse she'd called home in Baltimore. She didn't know where she and her family would spend the night. She hadn't heard from the Red Cross, and she didn't know where to find help.

Five children and three adults lived in the house. Among them was Lesli Ordonez, 29, who held her 1-year-old baby, Hansel, as she tried to reach friends on her cellphone. She and Alvarez had been cooking when the fire started in another house. They'd gotten out safely but wondered what to do next.

Over on Lakewood Avenue, Mayra Herrera stood on the sidewalk, sobbing into the arms of a family friend. She'd been inside the corner house when the fire broke out; another woman had smelled smoke in the kitchen, and they fled. Herrera, who works as a cleaner, is originally from Honduras. She'd lived in the house with her two children; one was in school and didn't know yet what had happened. Herrera didn't know where they would spend the night.

Jose Cortez, a busser at Capital Grille, leaned against the formstone siding of a nearby house with Dante Lopez, a dishwasher in Fells Point, as they waited for firefighters to quell the blaze that had struck their room at about 4 p.m.

Both men, originally from Mexico, said they'd spoken with a city representative to get them in contact with services available to them, but, like other people affected by the fire, they didn't know where they would go next.

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"At least we're safe," Lopez said.

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