Man found dead in burning house

Firefighters battling a blaze in a southwest Baltimore house early Saturday found a lifeless body inside, and the city firefighters' union said the closure of a nearby fire station affected the department's ability to respond quickly to the incident.

In a statement e-mailed to reporters shortly after 12:30 a.m., Baltimore Firefighters Union Local 734 said fire and rescue crews had encountered heavy fire and smoke at the two-story brick dwelling on the 1900 block of Griffis Avenue.


Firefighters found the body of a 51-year-old man on the second floor of the house. Four other people, including the man's wife, had escaped the burning building.

One firefighter was injured while trying to extinguish the blaze, the union said. His condition could not be ascertained Saturday afternoon.


The union said the fire station closest to the blaze — Truck Co. 23, in Pigtown — was out of service as part of the rotating closures ordered by city officials to meet budget constraints. "Truck 23 being closed delayed search-and-rescue operations on this incident," the union said.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a fire department spokesman, said there was no delay.

"We had units on location in as little as three minutes, 54 seconds" of the report of the fire at midnight, Cartwright said — well within the eight-minute standard set by the National Fire Protection Association.

Cartwright said firefighters were aware that someone was trapped inside the house, and they performed a so-called rapid attack in an attempt to rescue him, but found him dead as a result of smoke inhalation and burns.

Cartwright said the closure of Truck Co. 23 "in no way had an impact" on the man's survival.

"It takes literally one gasp of this toxic smoke to asphyxiate a person," he said.

No smoke alarms could be heard when the firefighters arrived, he said. Arson investigators are looking into the fire's cause.

Truck Co. 23, which would have been the first to respond had it been in service, is in the 1200 block of Bush Street, about 10 blocks from the Griffis Avenue fire, a union official said. Instead, firefighters were summoned from Truck Co. 8, in the 3200 block of Frederick Ave., about 20 blocks away, and Truck Co. 10, in the 1500 block of West Lafayette Avenue, about 32 blocks away.