DUNDALK, Md. - By the time firefighters arrived at the home in the 1900 block of Inverton Road in Dundalk, fire had gutted much of the first floor and had spread to the second.
"The curtains were flying out. Black smoke was coming out," said Ginny Bivens, a next door neighbor.
But minutes before the fire engines arrived, Bivens' boyfriend, Mike King, had already come to the rescue of a pair of adults and a baby trapped outside an upstairs bedroom window.
"The black smoke up there was smoldering so fast they had to hurry up and climb out the window," said Regina Pickett.
"He was on his break and he came home to get coffee and he smelled smoke," said another neighbor, Harmony Smith, "He said, 'Oh, my God. Fran's house is on fire!' He grabbed the ladder out back and connected it from the porch to the awning and grabbed the baby and the father and her daughter."
While an investigation into the source of the fire is ongoing, it appears it may have started in the kitchen.
Neighbors say the homeowner had left the house that morning while her boyfriend, daughter and grandson remained asleep upstairs.
"Apparently she left something in the oven and left out of the house and when she did, the house caught on fire and it just went completely through the house," said Smith.
Paramedics transported the three victims by ambulance to nearby hospitals for smoke inhalation, but if not for a sanitation worker stopping off at home for a break, a handy ladder and the clarity of mind to use it, their fate could have been much worse.