BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Fire sweeps through a city home, killing an elderly couple well respected for their work in local schools.

Weijia Jiang spoke to the victims’ family.

So devastating. This couple took lots of safety measures around the house. They even had a working smoke detector. But investigators say it was one security feature in particular that may have cost them their lives.

Just after 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, an intense fire rattled Mohawk Avenue in Northwest Baltimore.

“I heard about three explosions that took place. At first I thought it was a gunshot,” said Louis Randall, neighbor.

A desperate 911 call from inside brought crews to the scene. Investigators say the caller was 79-year-old Donald Patterson Sr., who owns the house with his wife, 83-year-old Jennye.

But by the time crews arrived it was too late for both of them.

Investigators from the fire marshal’s office say it was bars over the bedroom window and over the door to an exit balcony that trapped the couple.

“This fire was out in minutes, but unfortunately the smoke is what kills people and that’s what happened here,” said Chief Jim Clack, Baltimore Fire Department.

“This is really a shock, especially something like this where you have no notice, nothing,” said Annette Patterson, victims’ daughter-in-law.

Annette Patterson has three sons with the victims’ only child, Donald Jr. They’re picking up broken pieces of a lifetime’s worth of belongings—a heartbreaking task.

“Especially with Christmas coming and Thanksgiving because we always come up here and have dinner with them,” Annette Patterson said. “That’s going to be really hard.”

It’s not just family rocked by the tragedy. It’s an entire community.

Graduates of Morgan State University, the couple dedicated their lives to education.

Mr. Patterson was a retired assistant superintendent for Baltimore schools. Mrs. Patterson was a retired principal at Greenspring Middle.

Both spent their time volunteering.

“They taught me what it meant to be a person of integrity,” said Tahira Ali, victims’ goddaughter. “Words can’t express how we feel about this loss.”

Family members say Mr. Patterson would’ve turned 80 on Oct. 9. But instead of planning a birthday party, they are now planning two funerals. Those arrangements have not been finalized.

Investigators believe the fire started on the first floor, but they are still trying to determine a cause.

Comments (3)
  1. Deddrea Monk Summers says:

    My Sympathy to Mr and Mr Patterson. As a former student at the than GreenSpring Junior High School, I remember them both well. They were not married at that time, to my knowledge in the 70’s. They were on top of us students and loved us dearly. During arrival to school the would have lively music to wake us up as we began our school day. Never in all my years of attending Balitmoe City Schools had I never had a school that did that for the students. Currently employed with the school system as well, and may be because of these two and all the positvie roll models I have had in my life.
    My Prayers to the Family.

  2. Sherrelle Brown says:

    My Deepest Sympathy to the Patterson family. I’m a former student of Green Spring Junior High School class of 82. Yes I remember them both in the hall waiting to meet and greet all the student that was heading to class. We had early morning music to make our day. Mr. and Mrs.Patterson was like our second
    parent. I will miss them both My Prayer go out to the Patterson.

  3. Jacqueline Cussaac says:

    I was telling my son about my Principals @ Greenspring Jr. High 2 weeks ago as we drove by the school. Mmmm………….My Deepest Sympathy to the Patterson family. I graduated from Greenspring in 1979. Mr. Patterson was the Principal and Ms. Thompson was the Vice Principal during that time. I have very pleasant memories of the two of them. Waiting at the front door for the students arrival. I appriciate everything that they shared with me to become a better student and person that I have became. Mr. and Mrs. Patterson will be missed. To the family, I know it is hard but turst in the Lord and he will give you strength and my Prayers are with you.

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