Tuesday, April 10, a fire broke out in a row of eight row homes in Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland. Thankfully, there were no injuries. Alas, one of the row homes is our son's and daughter-in-law's. It has been a surreal week, to say the least. I debated about putting this out here, but then, as the post's title says, because it happened…because it happened it needs to be acknowledged. I am learning that from yoga. The article below comes from The Baltimore Sun.
The latest news, almost a week later, is the City of Baltimore is going to tear down what remains because the roof no longer exists for any of the eight homes, there is extensive water damage, and there were no fire walls between the homes, this being an 1880 building that was subdivided inside at some point, likely before there was a fire code stipulating the need for fire walls.
There was a helicopter and news live feed as the fire was burning, and while my husband and I were watching we had to smile at one point because who should be interviewed but our daughter-in-law's father. His presence on film was so unexpected, and he was so true to himself in the interview, that we found a reason for a smile amidst everything that was going on.
And one last comment, thank goodness for homeowner's insurance. At the most pressing moments the assistance is the most needed. Friends (classmate of our granddaughter's) put our son and his family up for the rest of the week so the children could continue attending school. And a representative from the insurance company arrived the evening of the fire, presented our son with a debit card for necessities, found them a short term rental (at Home 2 Suites, which is like a hotel but with some kitchen amenities), and has found them a long term rental where they anticipate moving today or tomorrow. [4/19/18 UPDATE - After 6 nights in the hotel, today they move into a long term rental that is 1.5 miles from their house.] My heart goes out to the renters who lived in some of the row homes, as my understanding is some did not have renter's insurance. The community of Hampden is rallying around any of the folks who need assistance.
Talia Richman, Contact Reporter, The Baltimore Sun
A two-alarm fire heavily damaged as many as eight rowhouses in Hampden Tuesday.
About 70 first responders with the Baltimore Fire Department arrived at the blaze in the 3900 block of Roland Ave. just before noon, said department spokeswoman Blair Skinner. By 3 p.m., the fire was contained.
The fire started in the area just below the roof in one of the rowhouses and spread down the block. There were no injuries, Skinner said.
"Because of the intensity of the fire and the heavy wind conditions, it just spread down the row," she said.
The investigation into the cause is ongoing, Skinner said.
Roughly an hour after the first call, heavy smoke and fire were visible from the roofs of about a dozen homes. Most residents evacuated on their own, though firefighters had to rescue some people and pets.
Amy Miller and her three siblings grew up on this block, in the rowhouse with octagon windows at the center of the line of burning homes.
Four of her family members still live there, including her 71-year-old mother, who had to be evacuated in her wheelchair with the help of firefighters. Miller rushed to the scene from Dundalk as soon as she heard about it on the news.
"Years and years of memories are gone," she said. "This house was our foundation."
Still, she said, she feels lucky her family members and their puppy made it out of the home without injuries.
"We can get another house," said Miller, 31. "I can't get another mom."
Oscar Decombel, 69, is visiting from Brussels, Belgium, and housesitting for his son-in-law, whose home caught on fire. He stood with his wife and a group of other neighborhood residents behind police caution tape, across the street from his son-in-law's burning home.
He watched as powerful hoses sent water across the smoking roof and into open windows, blasting pieces of the structure into the air. He and his wife had evacuated more than an hour earlier and had begun thinking about where they'll spend the night.
Decombel comes to visit from Brussels a couple times a year, often helping his son-in-law fix up the house. He recently replaced the carpet with hardwood floors.
"That will be ruined," he said. "We'll have to start all over again."
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke stopped by Tuesday evening to survey the damage and meet with residents. Red notices were affixed to several front doors declaring the structures “Condemned.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” Clark said. But at least, she noted, everyone got out safely. “Even the pets.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.