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Boy dies after Christmas morning fire rips through Baltimore apartment complex

A 7-year-old boy died on Christmas after being critically injured in an early morning fire that tore through a Gwynn Oak apartment building after someone didn’t properly extinguish cigarettes, Baltimore County Fire officials said.

Clinton Chimobi Ezeamaka, of the 6700 block of Townbrook Drive, died in the pediatric burn unit at Johns Hopkins.

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The county fire department said the fire initially began because of improperly discarded cigarettes in the apartment directly below where the boy lived on the third floor. Investigators said there were a number of “combustible materials” like clothing and other debris on the balcony of the apartment where the fire began.

Firefighters and police got a call around 12:30 a.m. about a fire with somebody who needed to be rescued. They arrived to find heavy flames showing from the garden style apartments when they arrived in the 6700 block of Townbrook Drive, according to the release.

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The fire spread upward and burned into the building’s roof structure so that the boy was trapped with heat and fire both above and beneath him.

Firefighters deemed the blaze accidental, the news release said.

After firefighters snatched Ezeamaka from his bedroom in the burning building, EMS treated him and took him to the hospital where he later died.

One firefighter was injured while battling the blaze and taken to a hospital with non life-threatening injuries, officials said.

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Vanessa Ingram, 61, was sound asleep when she heard a pounding on her door. The noise jolted her awake. As Ingram went to answer, she began to smell the smoke.

“The firemen banged on the door. They said ‘Miss, your building is on fire you gotta grab what you can and get out!’” Ingram recalled.

She rushed outside. The fire roared.

“It looked horrible,” she said.

A photo posted on Twitter by the Baltimore County Fire Department showed bright orange flames bursting from two floors of the building as smoke billowed into the night sky.

Barbara Murray, left, who lived on the second floor of the townhome in the 6700 block of Townbrook Drive (pictured behind them) where a three-alarm fire occurred early Christmas morning, is assisted by a neighbor, Beatrice Whiting, as she leaves the Gwynn Oaks Landing apartment complex. Murray was rescued by a son who lives with her, Renard Murray, standing on the sidewalk in the background, but neighbors reported that her dog and cat perished. A boy in the top floor apartment was taken to a hospital where he is in critical condition.
Barbara Murray, left, who lived on the second floor of the townhome in the 6700 block of Townbrook Drive (pictured behind them) where a three-alarm fire occurred early Christmas morning, is assisted by a neighbor, Beatrice Whiting, as she leaves the Gwynn Oaks Landing apartment complex. Murray was rescued by a son who lives with her, Renard Murray, standing on the sidewalk in the background, but neighbors reported that her dog and cat perished. A boy in the top floor apartment was taken to a hospital where he is in critical condition. (Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun)

Officials said it was a three-alarm blaze, meaning dozens of fire units — engines, ladder trucks, rescue squads and commanders — were summoned to the scene.

Commanders determined the fire was under control around 1:38 a.m., officials said.

The fire damaged 16 apartments, rendering them uninhabitable and displacing seven people, according to the news release.

Officials said the American Red Cross and the management of the Gwynn Oaks Landing, Apartments & Townhomes, are assisting those who lost their residences. The apartment management did not return a message requesting comment.

Ingram and two of her neighbors were put up at a motel Saturday. A neighbor lost her pets — a cat and a dog — to the fire.

Barbara Murray, center, who lived on the second floor of the townhome in the 6700 block of Townbrook Drive where a three-alarm fire occurred early Christmas morning, is consoled by a neighbor, Beatrice Whiting, right, as another displaced resident, Vanessa Ingram, left, surveys the charred townhome in the Gwynn Oaks Landing apartment and townhome complex. Murray was rescued by a son who lives with her, but neighbors reported that her dog and cat perished. A boy in the top floor apartment was taken to a hospital where he is in critical condition.
Barbara Murray, center, who lived on the second floor of the townhome in the 6700 block of Townbrook Drive where a three-alarm fire occurred early Christmas morning, is consoled by a neighbor, Beatrice Whiting, right, as another displaced resident, Vanessa Ingram, left, surveys the charred townhome in the Gwynn Oaks Landing apartment and townhome complex. Murray was rescued by a son who lives with her, but neighbors reported that her dog and cat perished. A boy in the top floor apartment was taken to a hospital where he is in critical condition. (Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun)

Meanwhile, workers climbed onto the roof and tossed damaged materials to the ground. Their colleagues cleaned up the debris from the blaze and discarded household items, which were strewed about the lawn.

Residents including Ingram returned to the charred end unit to collect whatever belongings survived the fire.

Ingram had called out Saturday of her job as a housekeeper at a nursing home but planned to go back to work Sunday.

If belongings weren’t burnt by the fire, Ingram said, they were soiled by the water used to extinguish it and reeked of smoke. All of it was ruined.

Ingram described herself as thankful to have survived but shaken up. She thought about her neighbors. The fire burned through the roof.

“The building that I was in, everything is messed up in there,” Ingram said.

Baltimore Sun photographer Amy Davis contributed to this article.

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