A two-alarm fire at a Northeast Baltimore group home operating without a permit displaced 11 people Wednesday morning, fire officials said.
Baltimore Fire Department officials initially said they were searching for a missing person inside the home. However, spokeswoman Blair Skinner said Wednesday afternoon that the person was never found and was believed to have left the premises.
The Fire Department’s search showed “no indication or no sign of someone being inside the home,” Skinner said.
Fire crews responded to the fire in the 5000 block of Harford Road in the city’s Lauraville neighborhood just after 5 a.m. Eleven people were staying in the group home, officials said.
The house was not permitted to have more than four people living in it, and a prior permit to operate a group home on the property had expired in 2006, Skinner said.
“We do yearly inspections [on group homes], but the permit was canceled because the owner stated he was no longer in business,” Skinner said.
She declined to provide the owner’s name and referred questions to the Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development, which did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
State property records list the home’s owner as Willie W. McNair, who did not respond to a request for comment. The home is listed as his principal residence. McNair acquired the home in November 2005 for $305,000. The state recent reassessment valued it at $223,100 as of this coming July 1.
Lilita Pope, 54, who has lived next door for about six months, said she awoke to see “this reddish, glowing light” coming through her windows Wednesday morning. When she opened the curtain, she saw the house ablaze.
The flames were so large that Pope and her children couldn’t leave through their front door, she said. They left by the back door instead, she said, and waited in the backyard for hours as firefighters attacked the blaze.
“I’m just so glad all of them was fine,” said Pope, referring to the people who lived in the house.
She knows the devastation house fires can wreak. Her mother, Dorothy Pope, 83, and brother Leon Pope, 55, were killed in a house fire in the 2300 block of Orem Ave. in West Baltimore on March 25.
Pope said the house next door has been a group home at least as long as she’d lived there. She remembered seeing people coming and going and wondering about the situation.
“How many people live over there?” she said she once asked someone who lived there.
“I’ve gotta go now,” she said the neighbor responded, before hurrying away.
Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.