Lanvale Towers temporarily condemned after two-alarm fire

Timothy Hodge, a displaced Lanvale Towers resident, talks about what the residents of the building affected by a fire need. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Dozens of residents of the Lanvale Towers in East Baltimore don't know when they'll be able to return to their homes after a two-alarm fire broke out on Easter Sunday.

Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said the apartment building has been temporarily condemned. She had no time line for when residents might be able to move back in and said officials would update the residents Wednesday.


The Red Cross was sheltering more than 40 residents at the Oliver Recreation Center on Monday, after 33 spent the night. Some of them said Monday that they have nowhere else to go and expressed frustration with having to sleep on cots in one large room.

Timothy Hodge, 53, said health problems, including sleep apnea, make it difficult for him to sleep in the community center. He said he has been told he won't be able to get his sleep apnea machine from his apartment in Lanvale Towers until Tuesday.


"I can't be in there, and I don't have anywhere else to go," Hodge said. "That building is insured for stuff like this, and we pay rent every month, and for this to happen. We're supposed to be placed in a hotel somewhere. They should have made sure we had a place to go, not no gym."

Tania Baker, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, said the shelter in Oliver is intended to be a temporary one.

"We are currently working with the landlord and HUD to ensure that interim arrangements are made for all of the tenants with the aim of closing the shelter by the end of the week," she said in an email. "DHCD is actively engaged in this and will remain fully engaged until we can ensure everyone has a place to live while the building is repaired."

Lanvale Towers officials did not respond to a request for comment.

William Rice, 63, said he only had two sets of clothing with him.

"We might be out of there a month," he said.

Marlene Ashe, 61, said residents expect to return to refrigerators full of rotting food because the building's electricity has been temporarily turned off, and she said she had no money to buy more food.

"I don't know what to do," she said. "If it ain't one thing it's another, and we shouldn't have to keep putting up with it when you're paying your rent."

Residents said most of the building's tenants are elderly or disabled. Outside the community center, some of the displaced residents were getting around with canes and wheelchairs.

Pugh said the building is privately owned but that the city and the American Red Cross are trying to coordinate help for the residents.

"The owner of the property has the responsibility to come up with some long-term contingency plans," Pugh said. "We are trying to provide as much assistance as we can."

Pugh said residents will be able to return to the building on Tuesday with an escort to retrieve important belongings such as medicines.


The fire, which broke out at the building at 1300 E. Lanvale St. in Oliver about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, released thick black smoke that could be seen from across the city. It took firefighters about an hour to bring the blaze under control.

No one was injured. Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams said she had no update Monday on the cause of the fire.

It was not clear how many people lived in the building. Officials said Sunday that 170 were displaced. There are 151 units in the building, said Lenore Koors, spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

"There were some pretty upset tenants who had hoped to go back to their homes," said Koors, adding that officials needed to make sure the building was safe before anyone could return.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun