Two families were left homeless, and one firefighter was injured when a three-alarm fire that investigators said was set intentionally gutted two East Baltimore homes and badly damaged two others about 6 p.m. yesterday.
A vacant house, 1602 N. Port St., caught fire first, investigators said, and the flames quickly engulfed the two occupied rowhouses. Another vacant house also was gutted, city fire officials said.
Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, spokesman for the city Fire Department, said investigators were treating the fire as an arson after neighbors reported seeing a man coming out of the door of the vacant house just before the fire was spotted.
One unidentified firefighter was injured in the blaze. He was treated at Mercy Medical Center for a possible left ankle fracture.
Chief Torres estimated the total damage at $85,000.
One of the families left homeless was that of Ameer Abadeey, 40, who said he recently moved his family of six into 1604 N. Port St.
He said he was upstairs writing checks when he smelled smoke and ran out to discover the vacant rowhouse on fire.
"I lost everything," Mr. Abadeey said. "All my kids' stuff is gone."
Neighbors said vacant houses concern them because anyone can go in and out of them. Mr. Abadeey said that a couple days ago, he discovered children playing with matches in the rowhouse where the fire started yesterday.
"There are empty buildings all around," said Gloria Miller, a neighbor who lives across the street from the burned-out buildings. "We don't like it, but we don't know what to do about it."
As the firefighters cleared out last night, Mr. Abadeey stared at his charred home, still unable to believe what had happened to his new dwelling.
"Besides being mad as hell and upset, what can I say?" he said. "It is in God's hands."