BALTIMORE — Members of the Abell-Charles Village community spent Wednesday afternoon consoling each other after a morning fire sent three of their neighbors to the hospital.
It happened around 4:30 a.m. in the 300 block of E. 31st Street.
Flames extended to three other neighboring homes.
Three occupants inside those homes at the time, escaped on their own.
“Some of our neighbors heard a loud boom and I came running down the street. We didn’t even see them we're just concerned they were not going to be pulled out in bags,” Joseph McGary told WMAR-2 News.
Two of the victims have been released from the hospital, while another remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Neighbors believe the home where it began was targeted because it had a pride banner on the porch.
“When I came around the corner with the dog this morning, it was like 4:20, all of the porches, roofs were on fire, which is what the banner was attached to,” said Sherry Fennimore.
She and Dan Walker saw the scene growing by the minute.
“The second house was just totally up in flames and spreading to the other ones. That middle one was just totally engulfed. That was the one that was decorated,” Walker said.
City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, also a neighbor of the victims was awakened by blaring sirens.
“Super scary obviously, I did get a chance to talk with the neighbors that were able to get out before they were taken to shock trauma. They seemed to be okay at that time, but obviously we’re still pulling for them,” said Ramos.
Around the same time those fires were set, another pride flag was burnt outside a home across the street.
Although he could not confirm a hate crime, Mayor Brandon Scott called the incident "horrific" and vowed to "bring every appropriate resource to bear to get to the bottom of this tragic event."
“He might not have that much hate in his heart and he thinks it’s funny to light a flag or a banner, but when that’s attached to a structure, that’s devastating and it’s caused a lot of trauma to a few house holds here,” Fennimore added.
For now, the fires are being investigated as arson while detectives search for a motive.
“It is completely unacceptable that there are now lives at risk and homes destroyed due to the actions of persons who have no regard for the lives and property of others,” said Commissioner Michael S. Harrison. “While we are still working to determine the details and motives for these incidents, I want to say that the BPD, the City and our communities will not tolerate any criminal behavior of any sort, let alone actions that may stem from hatred, bias and other bigoted attacks.”
We're told two cats died as well in the fire, and that one is still missing.