BALTIMORE - Firefighters arrived at the house on Mohawk Drive just four minutes after receiving the call, but it would be too late to save Donald Patterson, Sr. and his wife, Jennye.
"Oh, they're wonderful," said their daughter-in-law, Annette Patterson, "Outstanding grandparents. They have three grandchildren. All boys, of course. They were both principals in Baltimore City Schools."
Donald Patterson was about to celebrate his 80th birthday, but on this day, his lone son would return to the home where he grew up to try to salvage the handful of belongings that survived the fire.
Longtime friends of the couple also were drawn to the home upon hearing the news.
"You know they were stalwarts in this community. You know real champions," said Robin Wood, "Donald was a football player at Morgan. (He was) very involved in the life of Morgan State University to this day. Jennye's been very involved in the community... lots of organizations. They're loved by many, many, many people. It's a huge loss... a huge loss."
Firefighters say they believe the fire started on the first floor and a smoke detector was going off when they arrived, but security bars may have prevented the couple from escaping through second floor windows where they were found.
"They have gone together and Donald had a terrible heart condition and was worried about what would happen when he was gone. What would happen to Jennye," said Wood, "So in one way they're together. I guess they're together. If there's a silver lining, I guess that's it."
The victims' family learned of their deaths from a realtor.
It appears firefighters called the number on a "For Sale" sign in front of the home to try to reach their next of kin.