Alicia Evans loved animals, Taco Bell and nature, often taking long hikes away from the city lights and rumbling cars.
But most of all, said a lifelong friend, Evans loved her girls.
Evans and her two young daughters — 4-year-old Layla Mullen and 5-year-old Amani Mullen — died after sustaining injuries in a house fire earlier this week.
“Those girls just loved her,” said pastor Rodney Middleton, who knew the family for more than a decade. “They clinged to her all the time.”
Firefighters were called around 1 a.m. Wednesday to the fire in the 700 block of E. Cold Spring Lane in the Richnor Springs neighborhood, department spokeswoman Blair Skinner said. They found heavy smoke and fire coming from the first and second floors of the North Baltimore rowhome.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The State Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the cause of death was thermal injuries and smoke inhalation, Skinner said.
"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the family during this difficult time," said Fire Chief Niles R. Ford.
Baltimore has seen 28 fire-related deaths this year, the most in at least the past five years. The city had 16 fire deaths in 2016.
Evans’ friends recalled the family as close-knit and happy. They attended Harvest Church International on Belair Road, Middleton said.
He said the 26-year-old single mother was “thirsty for knowledge,” always asking questions about faith, finances and family.
“She wanted to be a great mother,” he said. “She didn’t take it for granted at all.”
Middleton’s daughter, Ariel Middleton, has known Evans for most of her life. The two attended school together — from St. Pius X School, a Catholic Montessori program in Towson, through the Community College of Baltimore County.
“Our hearts are extremely heavy right now,” a family member wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Evans worked as a lane inspector at the Owings Mills VEIP Station, said Jim Valerio, the general manager of Opus Inspection.
“We’re rocked pretty hard from an employee standpoint, but it’s nowhere near what the family is going through,” Valerio said. The company has also launched a separate GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses. “Our hope is the family will see very little burden.”
This is the third deadliest fire on record in Baltimore so far this year.
A Jan. 12 blaze on Springwood Avenue killed six of the Malone family’s children in one night. A March fire killed four senior citizens at a Northwest Baltimore assisted-living facility.