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In four days, authorities pull bodies from two separate vacant house fires

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 18:37:20-04

BALTIMORE — Fire responders have pulled bodies from two separate vacant house fires in less than a week in Baltimore.

They located one Southwest Baltimore Sunday evening, just three days after pulling a body from a vacant fire on North Avenue Thursday morning.

Multiple neighbors along North Avenue have complained to Baltimore City officials to no avail.

They called Thursday morning's fire "preventable," and since it went unaddressed, the issue evolved from dire to deadly.

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The chaos surrounding the deadly fire on North Avenue is still fresh in the mind of Tamonika Nash.

"The police started yelling and were like, 'You gotta get out. Get your family and get out,' so that's what we did," Nash recalled.

RELATED: Baltimore Fire crews pull body from burning vacant home on Thursday

Nash lives two doors down from where that fire broke out, but she and her family are still dealing with its expensive impact.

"Oh My God, there's a lot of water damage from the ceilings and the walls. Everything smells like smoke," Nash said. "It smells like we had a cookout inside."

Nash said she's familiar with the individual she believes first responders found inside, even though he hasn't been identified.

"We would see him pretty much everyday," Nash said. "He would be here cleaning a neighborhood, picking up the trash. We would talk to him, feed him from time to time, then sometimes he would disappear, then he would just come back."

Another neighbor last week told WMAR-2 News they've reached out to the city for help on multiple occasions.

Public records list the owner of the property as Amit Sambherm, a Virginia resident.

Those same records show he bought the home from Federal National Mortgage in 2013.

WMAR 2 News asked Sambher on the day of the fire if he knew about a squatter living on his property.

He quickly responded, saying 'No.'"

"The house should've been secured so nobody could get in," said Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos. "Police have limited capability of getting people out of a home if there are squatters because it's a civil matter. So the owner of the property has to take responsibility for that when there's somebody in there. And it's clear that that owner didn't care."

Councilwoman Ramos, who's spearheading legislation to reduce blight across Baltimore, said imposing citations on Sambher could have paved a path to holding the absentee owner accountable, as well as addressing the public safety hazard surrounding squatters camping out inside.

But now, Nash is left with a home full of damaged property she'll have to pay to replace.

"We have to replace the living room set, the bedroom set. The ceiling is definitely going to have to be redone because it's starting to buckle already from the water damage," Nash said.

"It's clear to me the owner doesn't care, doesn't care about the neighborhood, doesn't care about the house, doesn't care about the family that was living next to it," Ramos noted.

That sense of negligence was made evident through a water bill, one that hasn't been paid by the owner in more than two years while that years-old frustration breeds anxiety for Nash.

She fears she'll get another knock on her door.

"I'm living in between row homes that's empty, that's been empty where they start and stop fixing them, then they just board them up and forget about them. So I'm sure this isn't the last time. Somebody else is going to move back in there somehow," Nash expressed.