A 28-year-old mother and three of her four children died early today when an intentionally set fire raced through their home in the 3400 block of Edmondson Ave. in the Allendale section of West Baltimore.
A fourth child, who jumped from a second-floor window, was taken by ambulance to Francis Scott Key Medical Center's burn unit for treatment of burns of both hands and arms, as well as singed hair and abrasions. She was listed in good condition.
Fire Department spokesman Hector L. Torres said the fire had been set in a first-floor room of the two-story row house. But he would not discuss details of how investigators determined that the fire was arson.
Police later in the morning said they were holding for questioning a 25-year-old man they described as a friend of the woman's. He was taken into custody at the fire scene, police said.
Battalion Chief Hector Torres said the blaze was reported at 4:14 a.m. and spread quickly to the rest of the two-story Formstone-front house.
The woman and her three small sons were trapped as they slept in their upper-story bedrooms.
Pronounced dead in separate bedrooms from burns and smoke inhalation were Sophia Hunter, 26, and her sons, Brad Morgan, 2, Byron Morgan, 4, and Bryon Morgan, 5.
A daughter, Lakia Jackson, 11, jumped from her second-floor rear bedroom window as flames entered the room. She was found on the ground by a neighbor and was carried to safety.
The fire was declared under control at 4:50 a.m.
Battalion Chief Michael Moritz said that when the first of some 40 firefighters manning more than a dozen pieces of apparatus arrived, fire had engulfed the house.
"There was nothing but flames and smoke coming out of every window and door when I arrived on the scene," said Police Officer Schuyler Denham, of the Southwestern District, another early arriver. He said that until firefighters beat down some of the flames, no one could try to rescue the victims.
Heavy flames pouring from the burning house scorched the roofs of houses on either side, forcing residents of those dwellings to evacuate.
Chief Moritz said the house's interior was destroyed. Investigators estimated the damage at $27,500.
As neighbors stood in the early morning chill more than an hour after the fire was extinguished, grim-faced firefighters carried the canvas bags containing the bodies of the mother and her three children from the ruins of the house and into a medical examiner's office van.
Captain Torres said the fire brought to 29 the number of people killed in city fires during 1993.