The fire came without warning in the 400 block of East Biddle Street at a time when most people are still asleep, and arriving firefighters spotted a man trapped just above the fire line in a second floor window.
"The units were able to rescue that person down a ground ladder as well as make entry into the interior of the building to rescue the second person who was trapped on the second floor, and they were able to bring her down through the interior stairway," said Battalion Chief Glenn Kukucka of the Baltimore City Fire Department.
It only took firefighters 20 minutes to extinguish the flames, but those were 20 long minutes for Jean Smith---the victims’ only neighbor on that side of the boarded up block.
"I've been burnt before from the house next door,” said Smith, “They got a fire and my house and caught the roof."
Initially, one of the victims reportedly claimed someone had firebombed their home, and while investigators ultimately determined it was arson, they have ruled out Molotov cocktails or some similar device.
"A firebomb is a device that's actually used to create an explosion,” said Sam Johnson of the Baltimore City Fire Department, “What took place here was an ignitable liquid that was poured, like gasoline, around the home so that when the person who committed this heinous act lit off the match, it would create a barrier so that the individuals couldn't get out of the house while they intentionally set this fire."
Investigators say a large gate in the back yard kept the arsonist from igniting that exit, but if not for the timely rescue by firefighters, the heavy smoke could have proven deadly for the victims.
News of the arson has given Jean Smith yet another reason to consider leaving her home here on a block that others have abandoned since she moved in 20 years ago.
"That type of fire... we haven't had that type where they're setting fire in the back and in front," said Smith, "It's really terrible. I'll be glad to get from around here."
Investigators say at the time of the fire, typically the victims' children would have been asleep in the home, but fortunately, they were staying elsewhere.