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"Bald-faced lie": Families of firefighters killed in Stricker Street fire sue Baltimore City for neglect

 Baltimore man plants trees at scene of South Stricker Street fire to honor the three firefighters killed
Posted at 3:08 PM, May 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-01 18:12:11-04

BALTIMORE — The families of three Baltimore firefighters killed in a burning vacant home collapse have filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Baltimore City.

The January 2022 fire claimed the lives of Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenneth Lacayo, and also badly injured firefighter John McMaster.

The City had been notified that a lawsuit would be filed back in December 2022.

Attorneys accuse City leaders of "egregious acts," claiming the incident "was predictable, foreseeable, and so easily avoidable."

"The City's conduct went far beyond the ordinary governmental neglect that is sadly synonymous with Baltimore leadership," the lawsuit states. "It was an intentional and egregious pattern of conduct, committed over more than ten years, with such conscience-shocking deliberate indifference to the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights as to infer the City’s intention to harm the Plaintiffs."

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The lawsuit highlights the well documented issues of vacant homes in the City. Lawyers say fire crews should've never been allowed to enter the home to begin with.

"The City promised firefighters including the Plaintiffs that it had established and maintained a program that would catalog, and mark structurally compromised condemned properties to ensure that firefighters would never be ordered inside and face the probable risk of death from a collapse," attorneys wrote. "This was a bald-faced lie."

Court documents go onto reference the unsafe history of the home where the firefighters were killed.

"The property had been vacant for fourteen (14) years, two fires had damaged the home in 2015 and 2016, causing a partial collapse of the interior, trapping and injuring three other firefighters, and leaving the property exposed to the elements and structurally unsound. Nor did the Plaintiffs know that the City had condemned 205 Stricker Street in 2015 after determining that the property was so severely compromised and at risk of collapse."

Months following the fire, a 314 page investigative report was released critical of the city's response to the incident.

The report led to the resignation of then fire chief Niles Ford.

Attorneys are seeking more than $75,000 in damages. Currently, there are 13,422 vacant homes in Baltimore City.

Despite no arrests being made, investigators have ruled the firefighters death homicide by arson.