A two-alarm blaze engulfed a suburban Baltimore house early yesterday morning, killing all six members of the family sleeping inside.
Firefighters in Dundalk said the fire killed Marie Jamison, 33, and her two sons, James McCready, 10, and Brandon McCready, 6, as well as her husband, Raymond Jamison, 39, and his sons, Raymond Jr., 12, and Jacob, 10. The family's dog also perished.
Neighbors in the tightknit working class community of single-family homes southeast of Baltimore were stunned. Weeping friends gathered by the charred two-story house in the 100 block of Williams Avenue while counselors tended to dozens of distraught students at the nearby schools the boys attended.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Baltimore County fire officials said faulty electrical work may be to blame. Investigators have narrowed the search to the first-floor family room in the rear of the house. Stairs lead from there to the second-floor bedrooms where the bodies were found. Investigators said the fire probably shot up the stairs, cutting off the family's only escape route. The fire was aided by ongoing renovations at the house that left exposed timber on several walls, they said.
Neighbors called 911 after they heard the dog furiously barking and smoke alarms buzzing. Firetrucks responded in minutes, but the fire had already engulfed the house and was burning intensely.
"Any rescue attempts were futile," said Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard, of the Baltimore County Fire Department.
Doug Elkins, 46, had just returned from his night shift job about 4:20 a.m. yesterday when he saw flames pouring out of the house across the street from his.
"Before the fire department's hoses were even out, the second floor was gone," he said. "Fire was coming out of every window."
The entire block smelled of smoke 10 hours after the blaze. The yellow siding on the rear of the house was black. The charred remains of the couple's bed lay on the front lawn.
Marie and Raymond Jamison had married a little over a year ago and moved to the neighborhood. Their sons from previous marriages had just begun to bond, friends said. Raymond Jr. and Jacob lived nearby with their mother but had been dropped off Thursday so they could go to an Orioles game with their father. They died hours after watching their hero, Cal Ripken Jr., hit his history-making 400th home run at Oriole Park.
"Raymond did so much with those boys," said family friend Terri Brooks, 38, of Edgemere, who was standing by the house as firefighters removed burned furniture.
At Holabird Middle School, where James McCready and Raymond Jr. went, the mood was somber. Before class started, homeroom teachers read a brief statement announcing the boys' death. Several friends sought solace from a traumatic loss counseling team sent by Baltimore County schools. Volunteer parents served refreshments to other parents, who came to the school seeking news of the tragedy.
"This community just pulled together so magnificently," said Holabird Principal Henry V. Wagner Jr.
A similar situation unfolded at Norwood Elementary across the street, where the younger two boys went.
"They were wonderful, wonderful boys. I can't believe this happened," said Norwood Principal Harry Walker.