Almost three months after the tragic fire that mourned the city of Baltimore, Maryland, due to the death of three members of its Fire Department, the local police determined that those deaths were homicides.
Around 6 am on Monday, January 24, the fire broke out in a vacant three-story home at 205 South Stricker Street, causing a partial collapse that left four firefighters responding under the rubble.
Firefighters Kenneth Lacayo and Kelsey Sadler were pulled from the fire and taken to a trauma hospital, where they were both pronounced dead. Lieutenant Paul Butrim was recovered from the building and pronounced dead at the scene.
EMT-Firefighter John McMaster was initially on life support, but was released from the hospital a few days later.
On Wednesday, April 13, Baltimore police released to the press that all three deaths “were homicides.”
Likewise, investigators from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also classified the January fire as “arson”, on the same Wednesday. That means it caught or spread in an area where there should be no flames and is a violation of the law, whether intentional or not.
“ATF currently defines arson as a fire that is intentionally ignited or spread to an area where the fire should not be, and involves a violation of federal, state, local, or tribal law,” the agency said.
“Fires classified as ‘arson’ can also include fires that are not necessarily arson, but rather are the direct result of other criminal activity,” he explained.
Federal investigators identified a person of interest after releasing surveillance footage of a man walking near the scene of the fire.
On Wednesday, Baltimore police said city, state and federal law enforcement agencies were continuing to investigate the case and were not releasing information about the individual or possible charges.
“The arsonist classification is an important step forward in this investigation,” Toni M. Crosby, ATF Special Agent in Charge, told a news conference.
Thousands of firefighters and others from across the country gathered in Baltimore on February 2 to mourn the deaths. The fatal fire, and another in St. Louis 11 days earlier, prompted officials to look for ways to reduce fire risks in vacant homes.