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No working smoke alarm in Baltimore home where 3 died

Investigators found the rental license was not renewed which would have allowed inspection for working smoke detectors


A Memorial of stuffed animals and flowers are outside the home at 3414 E. Lombard Street where 3 residents died in a fire last week.

Barbara Haddock Taylor/Staff

By Cassidy Jensen
Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Highlands home where three people were killed in a fire last week did not have a working smoke alarm, fire officials said.

City records also show the home’s owner failed to renew his rental license after it expired in November, a process that would have required checking for working smoke detectors in the rental.

Baltimore Fire Department spokesperson Kevin Cartwright said Monday that the rowhouse where a family lost an 8-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 22-year-old man in a fire last week did not have a “working smoke alarm.”

“Unfortunately, the lack of this early warning notification perhaps contributed to their demise and limited their ability to escape safely,” Cartwright wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun.

Lucias Islas, president of Comité Latino de Baltimore and an advocate who has been supporting the family, confirmed that the home did not have a working smoke detector.

Fire officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, which began early in the morning of Feb. 27 and displaced 19 people from the 3400 block of East Lombard Street.

The boy and girl who died were siblings. Their cousin, the 22-year-old, was the father of a small child. All three will be buried in Guatemala, where the family is from, advocates who have been aiding the family said. The Breath of God Lutheran Church is accepting donations to support that family and others the blaze displaced.

City records show the home where the fire began is owned by an LLC registered to Kevin Agahi, who did not return phone calls Friday and Monday.

Tammy Hawley, a spokesperson for the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, said that the property had been appropriately registered previously, but the owner had failed to renew the rental license.

According to a notice dated Thursday, housing inspectors found after the fire that the home is no longer fit for human habitation.

Baltimore City rental properties must pass a basic safety inspection check for owners to obtain a two-year license. The checklist for rental license inspections requires that “smoke detectors are properly installed and operational.”

Cartwright said Monday that he did not know whether the adjoining homes had working smoke alarms. Other homes damaged in the fire appeared to have current rental licenses, according to city records.

Agahi owns other rental properties with up-to-date rental licenses. According to a January 2023 report by Southeast Community Development Corp., 11 of the 25 rental properties in Baltimore Highlands owned by Agahi’s KFRNA LLC received a total of 35 citations related to trash since 2016.

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