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Property manager issued fire code violations after fatal Edgewood blaze prompts inspections

In the wake of last week’s fatal fire in Edgewood, the property manager has been served multiple notices of fire code violations for other properties he managed in the area, the state fire marshal announced Friday.

Jeffrey Augustus Luck managed the home in the 1800 block of Simons Court, where a fire started around 2:30 a.m. May 9 killing three people, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Two other people were injured and three escaped without injury.

In the hours after the Simons Court fire, State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci said investigators were looking into whether the townhouse was set up as an illegal boarding house and inspecting other “high-occupancy” homes in the Edgewood neighborhood.

Six other properties in Edgewood managed by Luck — 1846 Grempler Way, 1848 and 1854 Elise Lane, 1947 and 1845 Brookside Drive and 1459 Charlestown Drive — contained multiple fire code violations, according to the fire marshal’s office.

There was no answer at one phone number listed for Luck when attempts were made to reach him for comment. Another phone number was disconnected.

The fire on Simons Court was not included in the inspections. The cause and origin of the fire remains under investigation by the fire marshal’s office. Arson has not been ruled out as a possible cause, said Emily Witty, public information officer for the fire marshal’s office.

Among the 48 violations announced Friday for the six other properties were padlocks on bedroom doors and a lack of smoke alarms, which Luck was made aware of shortly after the fatal fire, Witty said.

None of the homes under Luck's management contained sprinkler or fire alarm systems — a requirement of dwellings with six or more occupants. Witty said the inspector is “pretty confident” more than six people were living in the properties managed by Luck, but that will be determined when the inspector returns to see what violations have been addressed.

When six or more unrelated people are living together in one house, the house has to comply with state fire codes, according to the fire marshal. That may include a smoke detector in every bedroom or a certain number of ways to escape.

Inspectors planned to go back Friday to re-inspect the six homes, Witty said.

“They will list what is not corrected and make a judgment call at that point on how long we wait before we start penalizing, which could be in the form of fines,” she said.

Some of the remedies, like removing padlocks and installing smoke alarms, are simple. Installing a sprinkler system is not, but Witty said that issue could be addressed by reducing the number of people living there.

"Code enforcement allows us to provide life safety and fire prevention to the residents of Maryland," Geraci said in a prepared statement. "I consider the preservation of life to be the most important responsibility of this office. It was clear after our initial investigation of last week's fatal fire that we needed to immediately inspect every property affiliated with Mr. Luck for the safety of his tenants and the community."

As recently as the week prior to the fire, 10 people were living in the Simons Court home, officials said. Eight of the nine people living in the house were home at the time of the fire — three living in the basement escaped unharmed; three living upstairs died in the fire and two others escaped with injuries.

Geraci said the eight occupants seemed to be unrelated.

Harford County has a “minimum livability code” governing minimum property maintenance standards and requirements for rental housing units, but it does not have regulations regarding how many people can be living in a single unit, falling back on the state’s fire code, County Executive Barry Glassman previously told The Aegis.

On Thursday, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the fire along with the fire marshal, identified two of the three people killed in the fire as Ernest Milton Lee, 57, and Kimberly Ann Shupe, 47. The third person — Dionne Dominique Hill, 32 — was identified Tuesday afternoon. All three bodies had been taken to the Office of the State Medical Examiner for autopsies following the fire.

Police and fire officials also continue to withhold the names of the two people injured and the three people who escaped the blaze unharmed, because they are still considered witnesses to a potential crime until it has been determined whether a crime has been committed, said Cristie Hopkins, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman.

One of the two people injured — a woman with burns to more than 70 percent of her body — remained hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Bayview, Hopkins said. The other injured person was released from Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.

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