A 66-year-old man died early today and four other people, including a baby, were overcome by smoke when a fire raced through a basement apartment in a townhouse near Westview Mall, Baltimore County police said.
Police identified the dead man as Stephen P. Fertitta, a severely disabled person who received frequent dialysis treatments. Cpl. Stephen Doarnberger, a police spokesman, said a preliminary investigation showed that Fertitta had recently been depressed and set the fire himself in a suicide.
Eighteen other people were injured or left homeless in three other major fires in the city and Baltimore and Montgomery counties since late Christmas Eve. Two people were burned critically in the city fire.
Baltimore County police said today's single-alarm fire claimed the life of Fertitta in his basement apartment in the townhouse in the 1400 block of Kirkwood Road in the Edmondson Heights community.
Two Woodlawn District police officers entered the burning house shortly after the fire broke out about 3:25 a.m. and were searching for occupants when they were overcome by dense smoke.
The officers and a female resident of the house, Pamela Sines, 22, were taken to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore where they were treated for smoke inhalation and released.
Doarnberger identified the policemen as Officer Roland J. Greenwalt Jr. of the Woodlawn District and Officer Gerard J. Orndorff of Western District traffic enforcement.
A baby identified as Britany Nichole Sines, child of the 22-year-old woman, was taken to University of Maryland Medical Center, where she was treated and released.
A spokesman for the county Fire Department said the fire, declared under control at 3:54 a.m., began in the apartment of the victim and has been ruled suspicious.
Residents of Kirkwood Road said flames and heavy smoke poured from the two-story townhouse, but firefighters from the paid stations at Westview and Catonsville and the Woodlawn volunteers beat them back and entered the home.
A neighbor said the man who died had been in poor health.
In the city, a one-alarm fire in the 4000 block of Park Heights Ave. about 12:30 p.m. yesterday seriously injured three people.
The fire started when a frayed electrical wire short-circuited under a rug, said Battalion Chief William Goodwin. Flames quickly spread throughout the house and extended to seven adjacent dwellings.
"It looked as though the whole block was on fire when we first arrived," Goodwin said.
Gilda S. Robinson, 43, was rescued by firefighters from a second-floor bedroom.
"She had become overcome by the smoke conditions and fallen unconscious," Goodwin said.
Robinson was taken to Shock-Trauma for treatment of severe smoke inhalation and second- and third-degree burns to nearly 40 percent of her body. Robinson was listed in critical and unstable condition today, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Also injured was Robinson's son, Adrian Smith, 25, who was taken to the Francis Scott Key burn center for treatment of minor burns and cuts. He was listed in serious condition today.
Another fire victim, Donny Troy, 36, was taken to Sinai Hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation. He was in critical condition today.
A firefighter received treatment on the scene for minor injuries but remained on duty.
"Friction from people walking on the rug rubs away the insulation," Goodwin said, explaining the origin of the fire. "It was pretty unfortunate."
About 50 firefighters, five medic units and a rescue squad were on the scene. The fire was declared under control about a half-hour later.
The other houses received damages primarily to their porches, Goodwin said.
"My house isn't damaged that much," said resident Betsey Garrett, who was away when the fire began. "It just knocked out two windows in the front and in the kitchen," Garrett said.
She said doors in the basement and her bedroom received some damage but she still managed to have a good Christmas.
The burned-out house where the fire originated received about $90,000 in damage to the building and contents. The other houses together received $60,000 in damages, Goodwin said.
"The most important thing is being saved," said neighbor Mary Deniton, 56. "But it's sad."
In the other Baltimore County fire, a half-dozen families were displaced late Christmas Eve when a three-alarm fire broke out in the furnace room of an apartment building in Woodmoor. Four minor injuries were reported.
The fire, reported at 11:56 p.m. in the 3000 block of Essex Road, began in the basement units and quickly spread to the first, second and third floors, destroying or severely damaging several apartments.
One resident and two county police officers suffered from smoke inhalation and were treated at Baltimore County General Hospital.
A firefighter received second-degree burns of the face and was taken to the same hospital.
The fire was declared under control at 1:46 a.m. yesterday.
Fire officials believe the blaze began in a furnace but were uncertain of the cause.
About 150 firefighters battled the blaze.
The Red Cross assisted families burned out of their homes.
In Gaithersburg, a 67-year-old woman suffered severe burns and six other people were less seriously injured when a fire broke out in a townhouse in the first block of Capps Court around 5:30 a.m. yesterday and spread to two other townhouses.
A spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire Department said the cause was an overheated space heater cord. Damage to the townhouse and the victims' property was set at $200,000.
The spokesman said the fire spread from one townhouse to two others, forcing several residents into the subfreezing cold. A smoke detector was credited with alerting the residents to the fire.
The 67-year-old woman, who was unidentified, was taken by ambulance to the Washington Hospital Center, where she was treated for burns and smoke inhalation and was listed in serious condition today.
Also injured was a 14-year-old girl who was taken to Children's Hospital and treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
Five other residents were taken to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville and treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.