Electrical problem caused fire that killed two long-time city educators

Donald and Jennye Patterson died in Sept. 28 fire

BALTIMORE - Investigators say they know what started the deadly fire back in September, that killed two long-time educators in the Baltimore City School System.

Tuesday the Baltimore City Fire Department's chief spokesman said the fire, which happened September 28 in the 2800 block of Mohawk Avenue, was electrical in nature.

The department also released the 911 call made from within the home the morning of the fire.

The first thing you learn from the tape is that the call the victim, Donald Patterson -- went to Baltimore County; the tape begins with the county dispatcher transferring the call to the city.


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Precious seconds were lost, because the home was already in flames.

"What's on fire?" the city dispatcher said.

"My house!" Patterson responded.  He then told the dispatcher he was upstairs.  "The fire is raging," he said.

At around the 90-second mark on the tape, the dispatcher instructs Patterson to leave the house immediately.  He responded, "Yes" – but then told the dispatcher his wife, Jennye, is with him.

When the dispatcher asked whether he could get himself and his wife out, Patterson did not respond.  He doesn't speak into the phone again.  You can hear the dispatcher saying "hello" and "Mr. Donald" several times.

It's not clear whether he had put the phone down, or was carrying it while trying to escape.

Around four minutes into the tape, it sounds as if fire crews arrive -- you can hear Donald Patterson call to them -- still unable to get out of the burning home

Neighbors told ABC-2 News there had been a number of break-ins in the neighborhood, near the Forest Park Golf Course.  The Pattersons had installed bars on their windows, and investigators believe that prevented them from escaping, when the home caught on fire.

City police say it's likely that Donald Patterson was calling from a cell phone -- and the cell signal was initially picked up by a tower in Baltimore County.  Mohawk Avenue is not far from the county line.

They also say it's not likely that much time was wasted in transferring the call, but ABC-2 News has requested the 911 tapes from Baltimore County, to hear exactly how much time elapsed before help could come.

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