BALDWIN, Md. - This abandoned 56-acre farm at the end of Greene Lane in Baldwin has been on the market for five years, a victim of the depressed housing market, but its abandoned state apparently made it an appealing site for kids to use as a spot to congregate.
"We posted everything as far as no trespassing and we try to keep the house closed as much as possible. All the doors were locked, but the problem is we did have a lot of kids that would come up here. We'd see like beer bottles and things like that, but there's nothing else we could really do," said Brian Clarke, a proprietor of the property.
Last night, when 20-year old Conner McKeown’s father couldn’t locate him, the Loyola Blakefield graduate’s friends directed him to the remote property where he would discover the farm house on fire.
He searched for his son inside to no avail, suffering minor burns in the process, before firefighters arrived to conduct a more thorough search.
"Firefighters did make entry, extinguished the flames, found the son and transported him to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center where they pronounced him dead," said Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch, "We have determined the fire originated in the first floor living room area near a sofa, but the actual cause of the fire is still under investigation."
For Brian Clarke, the fire represents a double tragedy since McKeown lost his life and the fire gutted his girlfriend’s childhood home, but he says he had no idea the house, itself, had become a place to hang out.
"Every time we'd come up here, which was about every week, as far as inside the house, there's been no evidence of that at all," said Clarke.
State fire investigators say the Harford County Sheriff’s Office is helping in the case by interviewing other people to find out if anyone else had been at the vacant house last night.
At this point, there’s no evidence of foul play.
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