Man killed in fire at boarded-up rowhouse


A three-alarm fire raced through a boarded-up rowhouse in the 800 block of Edmondson Ave. early yesterday, killing one man and injuring another. Both are thought to be homeless men who had been staying in the house for some time.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in the early-morning fire, which took about two hours to bring under control.

Firefighter Ronald Howard, with Engine Company 53, was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center's Burn Center for burns on his face and neck, then released. Lt. Louis Lago was treated for an injury to his foot.

The fire created another vacant house on a block where more than half of the rowhouses appear to be empty or abandoned. As the fire spread, May Williams, a longtime resident who lives next door to where the fire started, fled to an adjoining rowhouse with her two tenants.

Smoke and fire damage to Williams' house appeared to be minimal, but the residents have been asked not to return because of possible structural damage.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres said the department had not identified the victims.

Neighbors said yesterday that they have watched homeless men slipping in and out of the boarded-up house for at least two years.

"I saw them the day I moved in," said Timothy Avery, who helped his pregnant wife, Charay Carter, and Williams, his landlady, evacuate their house after the fire started next door. "I thought about calling the police back then, and now I wish I had."

A city fire crew returning from another fire at a vacant house on Franklin Street, saw smoke coming from the Edmondson Avenue house at 4:17 a.m. Firefighters initially thought the property was vacant, Torres said. They found the dead man on the third floor, where the fire apparently started.

Another neighbor, Regina Smith, was awake after returning from her catering job. "It sounded like it was happening in my house," she said. When she looked out a rear window, she said, "everything was red and black."

She ran outside in time to see a man hanging from a second-story window. He fell or jumped to the sidewalk, Smith said. At least one man, perhaps two, were seen fleeing the burning house.

Avery said he ran outside and found a man lying on the sidewalk. The man, who appeared to be dazed, stood and staggered to the north side of the street, then collapsed. He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The fire also damaged two other vacant homes.

Smith said she feels more vulnerable because she no longer has the "buffer" of two occupied houses.

Williams is staying with a daughter. The Red Cross has found temporary housing for Avery and Carter.

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