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Effort aims to promote fire prevention


Smoke detectors will be distributed today and tomorrow in the neighborhood where a fire killed two men last week in a rowhouse shared by 11 Latin American immigrants. City officials, firefighters and local clergy will knock on doors, handing out the smoke detectors and talking with residents about the dangers of overcrowding.

"We're going to be doing an extensive outreach, knocking on every single door starting from Baltimore Street all the way down to the 400 block of Broadway, especially in the 200 and 300 blocks where there's a large concentration of Latino residents and businesses," said Jose Ruiz, City Hall's liaison to the Hispanic community.

Officials will install smoke detectors in residences where necessary, Ruiz said.

However, overcrowding is as great a safety concern, he said.

"We want to make sure they know how dangerous [overcrowding] can be. ... We're going to be going back [tomorrow], and if everybody's in agreement, we may go back on the weekend for a third time," Ruiz said. "It looks like this is going to be something that's ongoing, because we need to educate our people."

On Friday, fire swept through a three-story house on the 1600 block of E. Baltimore St., killing two men who fire officials still had not identified yesterday.

Three other men were injured, including Juan Martinez, 35, and Salvador Ramos, 24. Martinez, who was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and Ramos, who was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital, were not listed as patients at those facilities last night and may have been released, according to a fire official.

A third man, Damaso E. Guzman, was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital and released.

Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said the cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Firefighters were in the neighborhood Saturday, distributing pamphlets on fire safety, talking to residents and asking whether their homes had working smoke detectors, Cartwright said. The Fire Department spokesman also said that firefighters will assist families in developing escape routes and will help install the smoke detectors.

Last year, 27 people died in fires in Baltimore. Last week's deaths were the city's 12th and 13th this year.

"It appears there has been a lack of knowledge on behalf of the public," Cartwright said. "What we want to do is change people's mindsets, change how they feel about fire safety, primarily to raise their awareness and to reassess the fire-safety measures they have in place right now."

Ruiz said Pastor Daniel Santos of Iglesia Pentecostal de Evangelizacion Misionera would accompany officials today.

"Some Latinos are a little leery of government agencies because they come from countries where they don't trust the government or the police, and that goes for people who are legal and those who are undocumented. ... That's why I included some of the people in the community like churches, because they trust the churches," Ruiz said.

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