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After fire, rowhouse is under suspicion Officials say home might have been illegal day care center


Fire swept through a Parkville rowhouse that officials suspect was an unlicensed day care center, sending six children and an adult to the hospital yesterday afternoon.

Investigators believe the fire was started by a child playing with matches in the basement of the home in the 8600 block of Hoerner Ave., said Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Fire Department.

The house's owner, Melvin E. Smith, 52, was taken with four children to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition last night, hospital officials said. Two other children were taken to Franklin Square Hospital Center.

"It looks like the house was being used as a day care center, but we are still investigating that," Hubbard said. "There were seven children and two adults in the house at the time."

He said an order was issued yesterday barring the house from having a large number of children. Fire marshals will continue to investigate to determine whether any fire code violations were committed and whether any charges will be filed against the owner, he added.

Hubbard said firefighters who came to the scene shortly after 12: 30 p.m. found that the adults and children had fled to a house across the street.

Ed Pedraza, who runs a nearby business, said he saw the children being rushed across the street to escape the fire.

"The kids were pretty calm," he said. "They weren't crying or anything."

Police reports listed the children as Rodger Yin, 3, of the 400 block of E. Timonium Road, who had a burn on the leg; Carlie M. Donnely, 3, of the 8500 block of Harris Ave., who had burns on her hands and head; and Alec J. Donnely, 1, of the same address, who suffered from smoke inhalation.

Also listed as suffering from smoke inhalation were Taylor N. Weber, 1, of the 8600 block of Ellen Court; Katie N. Weber, 3, of the same address; Brandon Yocke, 1, of the first block of Pickens Court; and Joseph Smith, 2, of the 3000 block of Lavender Ave.

Last night, Rodger Yin, Carlie Donnely and Taylor Weber were in fair condition at Bayview, hospital officials said. A Franklin Square spokesman said Katie Weber was admitted for observation and Brandon Yocke was treated and released.

Estimated damage to the house was $50,000, Hubbard said. A smoke detector was inside, and investigators were trying to determine if it was working yesterday, Hubbard said.

The home was not licensed as a day care center, said Elyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the state Child Care Administration, which handles licensing. No application for a license was on file, and no complaints had been lodged against the home, she said.

"We need to know about these things if there are places caring for children without a license," Jones said. "There are several steps we go through to license a home or facility, and they include fire inspections and making sure the place is abiding by the fire codes."

Maryland has 12,000 licensed day care homes and 2,000 day care centers, said Linda Heisner, executive director of the Child Care Administration.

"It is illegal to run an unlicensed day care home, and there are both civil and criminal penalties," Heisner said.

James Sierakowski, who lives next door, said a day care center operated in the three-story rowhouse. He said the Smith family had lived there for more than 10 years.

"I never knew [the day care] to be a problem in the neighborhood," Sierakowski said.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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