Man dies in Md. blaze; clutter hindered firefighters' efforts

By Gus G. Sentementes
Copyright 2007 The Baltimore Sun Company
All Rights Reserved

CANTON, Md. — A man believed to be in his 60s was found dead early yesterday in a burning Canton rowhouse, where the clutter of personal possessions and debris hampered rescue efforts by city firefighters.

Witnesses told of heavy smoke pouring out of the corner rowhouse in the 3000 block of Elliott St., one block south of O'Donnell Square in Southeast Baltimore, about 2 a.m. The smoke was so thick that it set off smoke alarms in neighboring homes, residents said.

Arriving firefighters could not get far inside the home because of the clutter. Heavy fire and smoke consumed all floors of the three-story structure, and the rear of the building partially collapsed, according to Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman.

After firefighters got the fire under control and entered the home, they found the man dead in a bed on the second floor. Cartwright said that fire officials had tentatively identified the man but were trying to contact relatives and confirm his identity before they released his name.

The owner of the home is listed in state property records as James W. Flanagan. Later in the day, city officials condemned the heavily damaged building.

Harry Pegg, 33, who lives a block away, said he and his wife were up late watching television when they heard a loud pop, which he thinks might have been the home's windows blowing out.

Pegg said he grew up in the rowhouse next door to the one that burned, and that his mother still lived there. Her home suffered smoke and water damage.

Seeing smoke coming out of his neighbor's windows, Pegg called his mother and then ran over and pounded on the door of the burning home.

"I kicked the door in, but I couldn't get the door completely open," Pegg said. He then backed away as fire crews arrived. It took them about an hour to get the blaze under control, Cartwright said.

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