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Same vacant home that collapsed killing three Baltimore firefighters also caught fire in 2015

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Posted at 3:18 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 14:04:01-04

BALTIMORE — The same vacant Baltimore City home that collapsed Monday killing three firefighters and badly injuring another, also caught fire in 2015.

That incident injured three firefighters, who luckily survived.

Monday's blaze on S. Stricker Street ended much differently, claiming the lives of three fellow Baltimore City firefighters, Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenneth Lacayo.

Another member, John McMaster, was previously placed on life support in critical condition, but has since improved and regained consciousness.

All four were battling flames inside the vacant home when it partially collapsed, trapping them.

Crews were able to pull each one from the rubble within an hour, but only McMaster survived. It was the first time since 2014, that the Baltimore City Fire Department lost a member in the line of duty.

RELATED: Three firefighters dead, one in critical condition after being trapped in 2-alarm fire

Investigators with the Maryland State Fire Marshal are still working to determine the latest cause.

Monday is hardly the first time firefighters have been injured while putting out flames inside vacant homes.

In April 2021, heavy smoke and flames engulfed a dozen homes in South Baltimore leaving a firefighter hospitalized.

Only two of the houses were reportedly occupied, the others were vacant.

The issue of vacant homes has long been a concern for city residents. In the past, WMAR has reported on many tragic events related to vacants.

RELATED: Tackling abandoned homes in Baltimore City

Back in December a firefighter was injured when a vacant home on East 21st Street went up in smoke.

It also left several neighbors without a place to live, just days before the holidays.

About a week before that, another fire had broken out at a vacant home in the 1500 block of Argyle Avenue.

We spoke to a resident there who told us addicts go inside the vacant homes to use drugs.

"My mom had been calling trying to get them to come and board up the house because those junkies had been going in there," a neighbor told WMAR-2 News. "No luck and it just so happened they set the house on fire. They need to be torn down."

MORE: Neighbors displaced by vacant house fire want city to address blight issue

Then there are some who worry about the potential for vacant homes to collapse and hurt others.

That's the case of a 76-year-old grandmother we spoke to in May of 2021, who lives between two vacant city owned properties on Park Heights Avenue.

“When the wind blows, I pray all the time hoping god it don’t take my little house down along with all this other stuff,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Grandmother fears for her safety as two vacant city-owned properties crumble around her home

Other complaints about vacants have led to gruesome discoveries. In November of 2021, human remains were found inside a vacant home on N. Gilmor Street, as it was undergoing an inspection.

Just last week, a man's decomposed body was found inside a vacant home on Walbrook Avenue. An autopsy revealed he'd been shot multiple times in the head.

As of June 2021, there were approximately 15,600 vacant properties in the city — 1,350 of which are City-owned.

The City has since passed a bill that requires vacant homes to have QR Codes posted on them, that shows development plans, active notices, permits and the owner's contact information.