A mother who apparently rushed inside a burning East Baltimore rowhouse was killed today in a failed attempt to save two of her children. The boys, ages 5 and 8, also were killed in the blaze.
Fire officials did not immediately release the names of the victims.
Investigators said the two-alarm fire broke out about 6:40 a.m. in a brick rowhouse in the 800 block of E. 22nd St. A malfunctioning television set or wiring leading to the television has been ruled the cause.
Chief Torres said the first firefighters went in through the front door and pulled the two children and mother from a second floor-front bedroom.
The children, both in full cardiac arrest and suffering from smoke inhalation, were taken by ambulance to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, where they were pronounced dead at 7:37 a.m..
The chief said firefighters who carried the children's mother outside thought she was alive, but paramedics pronounced her dead on the scene. A 19-year-old brother of the two dead youngsters escaped unharmed from a first floor room.
This morning's fatal blaze occurred around the corner from Cecil Elementary School, where neighbors said the two young victims were enrolled.
Teairra Chisholm, 13, who goes to Cecil, said she saw the 39-year-old mother come out of the back door. "Then she went back in for her children," Teairra said. "She was screaming."
Esther Harried, 62, lives across the street and was on the telephone when she saw thick, black smoke pour out of the windows.
"It was terrible," she said. "I've never seen anything like this. I though I was going to drop dead. People said they were screaming in there. The mother got out and went back inside. If I were her and I heard those children, I would go in."
Michael Bailey, who lives next door to the burned rowhouse, said his 4-year-old great-niece woke up his family. "Something's burning, get out of the house, get out of the house," the youngster reportedly yelled.
Mr. Bailey, two other adults and two children escaped through the back door. Mr. Bailey said he would have to explain to Aisa and her brother, Devon, 5, what happened to their friends. "They know it's a fire," he said. "I don't know as far as the deaths. I don't know whether they understand that."
Fire officials said the victims might have survived had a working smoke detector been installed in the house. Firefighters found two smoke detectors, including a recently-purchased one with a battery installed, inside a chest of drawers in the room where the mother and children perished.
"It looks like the people in this home were awakened by something, but it was much later in the fire then it would have been had a smoke detector warned them," said Battalion Chief Hector Torres, a Fire Department spokesman. "Certainly in the location it was in, it didn't serve its purpose.
Today's deaths bring to 20 the number of people killed in Baltimore fires this year, compared with 27 at the same time last year.
Fire officials estimated damage at $60,000.