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"Now I feel homeless all over again." Women's shelter evacuated after fire, explosions

Church basement fire .jpeg
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jun 14, 2024

BALTIMORE — It was just before 4 a.m., 17 women and children were asleep in the basement of Christ Lutheran Church on Charles Street in Baltimore, which also operates as a women's shelter.

Erin Phillips woke up to take medicine. That's when she heard a loud noise, ten saw smoke coming from the kitchen. She alerted the case manager, who called 911 while Phillips got everyone out.

"But no sooner did we come out here and the firemen started going in, then the explosion happened. So if we were in there for 30, 45 more minutes, we would've - it would've been really bad," Phillips recalled to WMAR-2 News' Elizabeth Worthington.

That wasn't the explosion reported.

Baltimore City Fire Department Deputy Chief Khalilah Yancey said, "Also they found an explosion in the manholes adjacent to this building."

"I heard a big boom. I wasn't sure whether somebody was trying to get in the church, but then I later found out it was an explosion," Tiffany Jones said.

Jones has been staying at the shelter for about four months with her three children. Phillips has been staying there for about just as long. The plan is to bring all the women to a hotel temporarily. They're not sure when they can return.

And now I feel homeless all over again," Phillips said. "That was my home."

"Now, I'm gonna have to kind of start over and figure it out from square one. I think we'll all be okay, as long as we keep our minds on the goals ahead. I think we're gonna be able to push forward," Jones said.

BGE crews worked through most of the afternoon to safely restore power. The fire department is investigating what caused the fire and the explosions.

"The whole electric power comes to the electrical unit in the basement. So whatever happened, happened there," Pastor Amsalu Geleta told WMAR-2 News Friday morning.

He says the church is a 24/7 operation, so this will have a big impact.

"This is a very active congregation in the community. We have shelter, we have nursery school, next door we have apartments for seniors," Pastor Geleta said. "Nobody was hurt, and we will rise above this."

It's unclear when the church and shelter will reopen. The pastor already moved a memorial service scheduled for Saturday to another location.