By Dana Hedgpeth
The Washington Post
One body was recovered from the scene of a Baltimore house fire Thursday in which six of nine children in a family are presumed by authorities to have died.
A woman and three other children escaped the midnight blaze and were hospitalized as of midday Thursday, fire officials said.
The collapse of floors and burning debris at the three-story home in Northeast Baltimore made it difficult for firefighters to fight the fire and search the site, Baltimore City Fire Chief Roman Clark said.
Clark said the body recovered is believed that to be that of a child and that wreckage made it difficult to know where the child had been in the house on Springwood Avenue when the fire began.
The six children missing and three who are hospitalized are siblings in the family of Katie Malone and her husband, said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md.
Cummings identified Malone and her family Thursday and said she has worked for him for almost 11 years as a special assistant in his Catonsville office and that he had spoken with her husband.
The fire was reported around 12:30 a.m. When firefighters arrived, they reported heavy conditions and that several floors of the home had collapsed. The house “is torn apart,” said Clark.
Clark said crews were using special equipment to try to find the missing children in what he described as a “very methodical operation.” But he said the reality is that “if they are in here, we would have to presume they are dead.”
He later said: “We have not heard any cries.”
Clark said is it not known whether the house had functioning smoke alarms. The ages of the children were not immediately made public.
The woman Cummings identified as Malone and two of the children who escaped the blaze are in critical condition at a hospital and a third is in serious condition, according to fire officials.
One firefighter suffered minor injuries in the blaze.
“Sadly, six of her nine children perished,” Cummings said at a morning news conference. “It’s a very difficult time for our office and Katie is going to be OK. I talked to her husband at length today. Three of the nine children survived. Her husband thinks that they will be OK also.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation and is not clear how those who made it out of the house were able to escape.
There recently have been several deadly fires in Baltimore.
In December, there were twice the number of fire deaths compared with the previous year, according to the Baltimore Sun. Among those who died in the recent incidents were a 90-year-old woman and four children.
On Thursday while still at the latest fire, Clark — the fire chief — said of the recent fire tragedies, “we cannot wrap our arms around this.”