Crews battle 3-alarm blaze in Northwest Baltimore

They cling to each other Thursday as they watch firefighters sift through the charred shell of their apartment that is a total loss in Northwest Baltimore.
 
"I'm just thanking God that my children are out and to be alive and be okay," said Nicole Lawson. "That's all that matters. I know it's Christmas, but the best Christmas gift that we could have is to have each other and we have each other so I can't complain." 
 
Another victim, Kelvin Santiful, says while the fire appears to have been limited to one side of the apartment building on Gwynn Oak Avenue, thick smoke filled the entire structure making it difficult to get out.
 
"I heard them screaming, 'Someone's still in there!' and I could hear a dog yelling, but it was too late for the dog.  I think they had it in a cage cause the people weren't at home.  I don't think anybody... I hope nobody was still in there."
 
The fire appears to have started on the bottom floor and quickly climbed to Nicole Hamilton's unit two floors above it.
 
"I just smelled smoke, and the minute I smelled smoke was no sooner than somebody knocked on my door and told me we had to get out," she said."That's all I had time to do was grab my coat and put my son's coat on."
 
While fire investigators say the source of the fire remains under investigation, Lawson says she received a call while she was at her children's school alerting her that it started in her kitchen where she had a faulty stove and management was aware of the problem.
 
"The oven wasn't working.  When you turned it on, you'd smell the gas, but it wasn't working properly," said Lawson.
 
Now, dozens of people are left wondering where they will sleep tonight.
 
With a Christmas tree still evident through the sliding door of one of the smoke-damaged units, the extent of the loss in the midst of this holiday season weighed heavily upon victims like Hamilton.
 
"Just lost everything," Hamilton said. "No Christmas.  Just everything is gone.  My son don't have nothing.  Everything is gone."  
 
The fire has left 27 people homeless including 11 children.
 
The city's Neighborhood Services stepped in after the fire to provide them with temporary housing.
 
 
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