Ten people were killed here early today as a fire swept through a row house only hours after residents began using candles and a kerosene lamp because the house's electricity had been cut off for nonpayment.
Of the 10 confirmed dead, three were adults and seven children, said officer R.M. Gaston. Three others were injured, he said.
The blaze broke out at 12:30 a.m. at 2781 Tivoly Ave. in the city's northeastern section and was declared under control an hour later, said Fire Chief Francis Ticha.
The fire, the most deadly row house blaze in the city in at least 30 years, was ignited by a candle and may have been fed by kerosene lanterns that been used earlier, said fire department spokesman Capt. Patrick Flynn. The family's electricity had been shut off at 11 a.m. yesterday because of nonpayment of bills, Flynn said.
Charles Franklin, a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. spokesman, confirmed that the utility company shut off electricity in the home for nonpayment of a $808 bill owed by Deloris Williams, who was one of the victims.
Franklin said BG&E sent termination notices to the family in March, April and May and "apparently we had given this customer the usual winter protection policy, not to turn off service prior to April 1."
Residential utility service is not terminated unless a bill is more than two months overdue and not unless the company has "done everything we could to get the customer to come in to make some special billing arrangements," he said.
Doris McGriff, a resident of the home, which was occupied by the family of James Williams, 40, said the kerosene lamp had been extinguished hours before the fire, but two candles were burning when the fire broke out.
McGriff said she was sitting on a porch when the fire broke out. Her three children were among those sleeping inside, she said.
"I heard my baby, Mia, crying," McGriff said. "I went inside and saw she was on fire. I was trying to get to her, but the fire had already got her."
Flynn said 7-month-old Mia McGriff was the youngest victim in the blaze. The other dead included Mia's 3-year-old brother, Louis, and 5-year-old sister, Antheya; Williams and his wife, Delores, 38; three of their children, Anita, 12, Theresa, 11, and Michelle, 5; and James Brown, 28, and his brother, Antonio, 7.
The fire spread to an adjoining house, but officials said all the dead were residents of the house in which it started.
After the fire was brought under control, firefighters sifted through the smoldering debris inside the two-story brick building in search of more victims.
The three injured victims were taken to Union Memorial Hospital's emergency room. Two were treated and released while a third was listed in good condition with first- and second-degree burns over his back and shoulders, a hospital spokeswoman said.
They were identified as Jeffrey Williams, 14, Cynthia Lewis, 19, and James Curtis Williams, 19, who was admitted for treatment. Their relationships were not known.
Two residents managed to escape by jumping onto a roof with the aid of neighbors.
Most of the victims were sleeping on the second floor and had no chance to get out, Flynn said.
A neighbor, Diane Flood, 31, said she heard screaming next door, ran out to the front porch and saw flames shooting from the adjacent house.
She ran back to her home and shouted for everyone to leave. She said two residents of her house, Melvin Williams and Bernard Ethridge, climbed to the rear second-floor roof of the blazing structure and helped two people to escape