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Body found after fire in vacant house City firefighters contain blaze to one room; cause of woman's death unclear


City firefighters rushed to a fire at a vacant rowhouse in West Baltimore last night to find the body of a young woman on the second floor.

Homicide detectives and fire investigators searched the property with flashlights, but it was unclear last night whether they were investigating the city's 307th homicide of the year.

"There was an indication, I believe, by the first arriving units that there may have been multiple fires," said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman. "That has not been verified by fire investigation at this point, but certainly if that is the case, that adds some suspicion to the circumstances."

The one-alarm fire in the 1600 block of N. Ellamont St., south of North Avenue, was reported about 8: 40 p.m. and extinguished shortly after firefighters arrived minutes later, Torres said. He said the fire was contained to the front room of the second floor, although smoke filled the house.

A medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, Torres said. He described the woman as being in her early 20s, but she had not been identified last night.

Baltimore has recorded 300 or more killings a year for the past nine years, consistently placing the city among the nation's deadliest. Last year, 310 homicides were recorded.

Neighborhood bystanders said the home had been vacant for two to three years but had been used from time to time since then.

"It's a drug house," said James T. Daniels, 41, a truck driver who lives in the neighborhood. "People go in and get high."

Pub Date: 12/26/98

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