Officials: 'Combustible material' kept Federal Hill fire burning

BALTIMORE - Luckily everyone got out; the five people in the home where the fire started and the neighbors next door, one woman rescued from a second floor window.

Lucky because the fire in the 1200 block of Battery Avenue in Federal Hill burned fast and hot.

Nancy Elkins, who grew up in the home, could only helplessly watch.

"That was my child memories.  All gone, my mom's home, gone.  Luckily everyone got out alive so, that is the main thing."

But it was those memories firefighters say made this fire so dangerous.

The fire department said each floor had random belongings piled up to five feet high, collected over the years and last night acting as kindling for the flames.

PHOTOS | Home on Battery Ave collapses in fire

"There was a lot of combustible material there that fueled the fire and kept it going for a while and made it very difficult for us to get in," said Baltimore Fire Captain Roman Clark.

Forcing firefighters to fight it from the outside, the same way they continued to fight it into the afternoon.

Hot spots crept up through the morning giving neighbors nervous pause.

"What was difficult was that the flames never went away, they're still spaying that house.  It felt like every time they put out a flame, there was a new one in the middle of the house."        

And on and on it went as neighbors like Rebecca McGinley watched and hoped firefighters could tamper down this well fueled fire before it reached her home.

"You just don't know what to expect.  Because you're counting 1..2, you're counting doors.  I'm 1,2,3 doors away and it's really scary.  You know we all live in this neighborhood in these row homes and I'm really lucky and I'm lucky that all my neighbors, everyone got out ok," said McGinley.

Altogether, the row house fire damaged three other homes along Battery Avenue in Federal Hill.

Family members of the main homeowner say two dogs and other pets were killed in the fire although the fire department has yet to confirm that.

Just this afternoon, fire investigators were able to get into the house to begin determining a cause. 

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