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Two die in Northeast Baltimore house fire

Five others escape; fire deaths are city's first of year

By Jessica Anderson and Justin George, The Baltimore Sun

6:25 PM PST, January 3, 2013

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Two people died in a two-alarm house fire in Northeast Baltimore late Wednesday, fire officials said.

Firefighters were called to the 3000 block of Montebello Terrace just after 11:30 p.m. Seven adults, including a pregnant woman, were inside the 11/2-story, wood-frame house when the blaze started.

Scott Wiles, 55, and Andrew Bryant, 52, were pronounced dead at the scene. They were the city's first fire fatalities of the year, officials said.

Firefighters arriving at the scene searched the house, but a commander ordered an immediate evacuation because of the intensity of the blaze and requested a second alarm for added manpower, officials said.

About 65 firefighters responded during the night, and firefighters searched the home a second time, finding one body. A second body was found after 2:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the fire had been contained. Firefighters had pumped about 3 feet of water out of the basement, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a department spokesman.

Five other residents escaped, Cartwright said. Three were taken to hospitals for evaluation, including a man who might have suffered a fractured hand and burns on his foot. A woman who was eight months' pregnant declined to be evaluated at a hospital.

It was not immediately known whether any of the residents are related, Cartwright said. One or two dogs are believed to have died in the blaze.

A firefighter suffered a shoulder injury, Cartwright said.

Last year, 12 people died in fires in Baltimore, a historic low in the city. There were 17 fire deaths in 2011.

A fire battalion chief on the scene said a Northeast District police officer pulled a resident out of the house. Cartwright said he was told the officer pulled the person out of a basement window. Police officials had no information Thursday about the incident.

Fire investigators and police were investigating the cause of the fire.

"When you have a fire that devastating, you really have to go through with a fine-toothed comb, even more so when a life is lost in the fire," Cartwright said. "We don't rush to make a right-on-the-spot judgment. We need to make absolutely certain of the cause."

It was not immediately known whether the house had working smoke alarms.

Fire Department officials reminded city residents to call 311 for free smoke alarms, which firefighters will install.

On Thursday night, a separate, three-alarm fire about a mile away — also in Northeast — left one woman injured.

Firefighters responded to the 4700 block of Schley Avenue about 7 p.m. for a report of a house fire and found a duplex of five apartments with flames coming from the second floor, Cartwright said.

At the scene, neighbors watched as firefighters began attacking the flames. An 18-year-old resident of one of the apartments suffered from smoke inhalation and was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Cartwright said.

Other residents stood outside, awaiting information on how their apartments had fared and what the damage would be.

"I could hear the water coming through my ceiling," said Mark Boyd, 56, who has lived in one of the duplex's first-floor apartments for the past four years. "When I came out of my front door, [firefighters] said, 'Yeah, you've got to get out of here,' and I said, 'No problem.'"

As Boyd spoke, firefighters were taking chain saws and axes to the roof, pulling away pieces of wood as smoke poured out. Property records show the three-story structure dates to 1895.

On Thursday night, a separate, three-alarm fire about a mile away — also in Northeast — left one woman injured.

Firefighters responded to the 4700 block of Schley Avenue about 7 p.m. for a report of a house fire and found a duplex of five apartments with flames coming from the second floor, Cartwright said.

At the scene, neighbors watched as firefighters began attacking the flames. An 18-year-old resident of one of the apartments suffered from smoke inhalation and was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Cartwright said.

Other residents stood outside, awaiting information on how their apartments had fared and what the damage would be.

"I could hear the water coming through my ceiling," said Mark Boyd, 56, who has lived in one of the duplex's first-floor apartments for the past four years. "When I came out of my front door, [firefighters] said, 'Yeah, you've got to get out of here,' and I said, 'No problem.'"

As Boyd spoke, firefighters were taking chain saws and axes to the roof, pulling away pieces of wood as smoke poured out. Property records show the three-story structure dates to 1895.

The blaze had been brought under control by 8:10 p.m., Cartwright said. No cause had been determined late Thursday.

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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