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Baltimore firefighters rescue 3 in fatal rowhouse fire

An 8-year-old boy died and two people were injured during an early-morning fire


Feb. 27, 2024: Fire scene aftermath on the 3400 block of East Lombard Street in East Baltimore.

Barbara Haddock Taylor/Staff

By Dan Belson, Cassidy Jensen
Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — An 8-year-old boy died Tuesday morning after a fire broke out at a Southeast Baltimore rowhouse, also leading to two other people being hospitalized and more residents being displaced, fire officials said.

Baltimore Fire crews responded at about 2 a.m. to the 3400 block of East Lombard Street in the Baltimore Highlands neighborhood to attack the blaze, where heavy fire and smoke were seen coming from the two-story brick rowhouse, the department said in a news release.

Three occupants, the 8-year-old, a 13-year-old and a 22-year-old, were found unconscious and nonresponsive inside the rowhouse, fire spokesperson Kevin Cartwright said Tuesday morning. All three, who are related, were taken to hospitals, and the 8-year-old died of injuries related to the fire later in the morning, Cartwright said.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire. Four rowhouses were damaged, and 19 people were displaced, Cartwright said. The American Red Cross is assisting five families, or about 35 people, who were impacted by the fire with immediate financial, medical and housing needs, spokesperson Ashley Henyan said.

Traffic through the block was still shut down Tuesday morning as Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews vented a gas line under the street in front of the charred rowhouse. A spokesperson for the utility said its crews had de-energized the four damaged rowhouses and were performing work on the gas line for safety reasons following the fire.

Baltimore firefighters knocked on doors around the block, checking for smoke alarms. Workers removed furniture from the damaged houses, including a pink desk they loaded onto a truck.

Lucia Islas, president of Comité Latino de Baltimore, a nonprofit that serves the Baltimore area’s Hispanic community, stood on Lombard Street talking with families Tuesday as the smell of smoke lingered. Debris was piled outside the house that suffered the worst damage, where the 8-year-old lived with extended family members.

Jessica Rivera, who works with the child’s mother at a nearby market, said the family is originally from Guatemala. Rivera said they moved to Lombard Street about three years ago. The two others who were hospitalized were the boy’s sister and their mother’s nephew, she said.

Antonia Mejia Ramos, 48, said she woke up early Tuesday morning to the fire that began a few doors down from her home. Her home was badly damaged in the fire, and Red Cross workers walked in and out through its open door Tuesday.

“A lot of smoke in the basement, about 80%,” she said in Spanish. “The parts upstairs are the same.”

Nine people live in the rowhouse, including her three children. None were injured in the fire, which she estimated ended about 4 a.m.

Ramos’ family is originally from Honduras and moved to Baltimore about four years ago. They have lived on Lombard Street for about a year, surrounded by neighbors who come from a variety of Latin American countries.

“A sad reality,” she said in Spanish. “But one has to accept what God does.”

Christina Tussing, a program director at an assisted living facility who has lived on the block for about 10 years, said her daughter woke her up about 2:30 a.m. as their rowhouse filled with smoke. Her building was ultimately fine, though she had to evacuate for around two hours, she said. Tussing didn’t know the family of the 8-year-old closely, but said she had seen them around on the block.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement that the city is “rallying support for [the 8-year-old’s] family, those injured and those who’ve been displaced.”

“My heart aches for everyone who has been touched by this tragedy,” he said, noting his office would be in contact with the fire department and those impacted by the fire “to provide the support needed as the Southeast Baltimore community grapples with the impact.”

Baltimore Councilman Zeke Cohen, whose District 1 includes the block where the fire broke out, said on X, formerly Twitter, that his office is working with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement’s victim services team and the Red Cross “to ensure that the victims and displaced neighbors are relocated and receive the care they need.”

“It’s a tough day for our community but I am extremely grateful for these brave men and women,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen, who is running to be City Council president, said Mark Parker, a Lutheran pastor endorsed by Cohen in a bid to succeed the Democratic councilman in the District 1 seat, would be coordinating donation efforts through his house of worship, Breath of God Church. After a rowhouse fire in 2020 near the church, the pastor led efforts to rehouse the families and purchase the burned-out buildings, which were turned into a community center.

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