A pre-dawn four-alarm fire in a west Baltimore County condominium complex near Interstate 83 forced 15 families from their homes yesterday, injuring six people slightly and leaving one man hospitalized with smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hands.
Fire investigators could not say where the fire began but estimated the damage to 22 apartments at about $1.5 million, said Baltimore County Deputy Fire Chief James H. Barnes Jr.
Everyone found new places to stay last night. The acrid smell of smoke, thick grayish-white clouds and a few walls left standing from the contiguous buildings at 1801 and 1803 Snow Meadow Lane at the Rockland Run condominiums were noticeable to motorists on I-83.
Firefighters received their first call at 4:30 a.m. and battled the fire in cold, icy conditions for 2 1/2 hours before bringing it under control, Mr. Barnes said.
The blaze had spread throughout the four-story brick buildings and was leaping through the roof when firefighters arrived, Mr. Barnes said. The walls caved in as the fire went out of control, but no firefighter was injured, he said.
The firefighters' job was complicated because they could access the building only from the front, had to relay lines from the closest hydrant, about 100 feet away on Old Pimlico Road, and because of the freezing conditions, Mr. Barnes said.
"As soon as you put the water down, it freezes," he said.
Leonid Mirkin, a maintenance man who lived in a third-floor unit in building 1803, suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hands when he apparently tried to put out a blaze in his apartment, fire officials said.
Yesterday, Mr. Mirkin was in intensive care at Sinai Hospital, where officials would not discuss his condition.
The cause of the fire was not known, but fire officials said it may have started in a furnace in building 1803, said Mr. Barnes.
The Fire Department dispatched 100 firefighters and 25 pieces of equipment, including fire engines and ladder trucks, Mr. Barnes said.
Yesterday, people displaced by the fire gathered in the condominium of their neighbor Eva Sivan in building 1811.
Ms. Sivan, a psychologist and volunteer with the Red Cross disaster mental health team, has lived at Rockland Run for three years. About 4:50 a.m., she heard emergency vehicles and looked out to see firefighters.
She said she "grabbed my badge and went out and just told
people to come here and keep warm."
Other neighbors also opened their doors to people who had been displaced.
The Red Cross set up an office in Ms. Sivan's home, where residents ate bagels and drank soda donated by the nearby Liberty Jewish Center.
Red Cross officials helped people replace medication, eyeglasses, food, clothes and other supplies. Everyone had places to stay and most families had insurance, said Red Cross spokesman Gonzalo Hernandez.
Most of the fire victims maintained a sense of humor despite the situation. They escaped with pets and cherished mementos.
Although building 1805 was not burned, firefighters kept residents away for fear that the only wall left standing at 1803 might collapse.
Robert D. Anbinder, 39, an assistant city solicitor, escaped in plaid pajamas, an overcoat, hat and gym shoes. His wife, Patty, and children Eden, 2, and Logan, 5, were similarly clad after they hurriedly left their first-floor apartment in 1803.
A neighbor banging on their door awoke the family.
"I cannot believe from the whiffs of smoke that I saw that nothing's left," said Mr. Anbinder, who expected only water damage. But, he said, "we got each other out."