An 11-month-old Annapolis boy died yesterday morning in a blaze that destroyed his family's home and that may have started when the Christmas tree caught fire.

Kyle Washburn, who would have celebrated his first birthday next month, was found dead in his crib after heavy fire and smoke prevented his mother and firefighters from rescuing him.

Capt. Leonard Clark, spokesman for the Annapolis Fire Department, said the blaze at the Silopanna Road home of Tracy and Jennifer Washburn was reported about 11 a.m. yesterday. Jennifer Washburn told fire officials that she was home with her two children while her husband was at work when her 5-year-old son, Tracy Jr., cried to her to come into the living room.

She entered the room and "saw what appeared to be the Christmas tree on fire," Clark said. Washburn got her older son out of the house and called for help. But when she tried to go back to save the baby from a second-floor bedroom, the smoke and heat forced her back.

The first truck on the scene found heavy smoke and fire and immediately called for another engine, Clark said. Firefighters tried to enter the house but were thwarted by the blaze. One firefighter was treated at a local hospital for first-degree burns on the side of his face and was released later in the day.

Relatives gathered to grieve outside the remnants of the couple's house, a small, two-story detached single-family home in a working-class neighborhood.

They said that the Washburns, both in their early twenties, were in shock over the loss of Kyle, a "happy, bubbly baby." They said they believed the fire started with the tree, and regretted that the family had chosen a live one, which can become dry and flammable after several days.

"A live tree is beautiful, but it's not worth a life," said Mickie Coleman, Tracy Washburn's sister.