EDGEWOOD, Md. (WJZ) — Of the four people on the top floor of a townhouse that caught fire in Edgewood, only one made it out alive Thursday morning.
The survivor — who wished to remain unidentified — had just been released from the hospital and came to the scene Friday with his family and recounted the terrifying moments when he was forced to jump to safety.
“The fire is moving fast. The smoke is coming. Everybody’s panicking,“ the survivor said. “We’re banging on [my roommate’s] door because she takes medication. We couldn’t get her up. We’re all panicking. I got real scared. I’m on the phone to police and trying to get them information. I’m kicking my a/c unit out of my window. I couldn’t go through my door. The smoke and fire was coming up the stairs.”
He said there was only one way out.
“I’m hanging on the side and feeling the heat. I had to jump because I’m hearing people screaming and burning, and I didn’t want to burn so I had to let go,” he said.
Then, he fell to the concrete below. “And once I hit, my body went numb.”
He said it’s still difficult for him to believe he’s the only one who got escaped from the top floor. He has injuries to his arm and leg.
He said the final words of two of his roommates lead him to believe the fire was intentionally set. “I believe there was foul play,” he said.
The State Fire Marshal’s office has opened a criminal investigation into the fire and is receiving assistance from the ATF. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating.
The fire marshal said he’s looking into whether the townhouse was an illegal group home and whether zoning rules were broken.
He said under the fire code, only five unrelated people are allowed to live together. Until last week, he believed 10 people were living in the home. Eight people were inside at the time of the fire. Those living on the basement level were able to escape.
Joshua Crouse told WJZ’s Mike Hellgren he moved out last week. He used to live on the top floor.
“It’s really killing me inside. We were all really good friends,” Crouse said. “I’d been living here for about three and a half years.”
He’s still emotional talking about his former roommates.
“I just hope things are going good for them in heaven where they’re at. It’s a whole messed up situation,” Crouse said.
Hellgren asked him about the living situation inside the home.
“It was a house that my landlord would help anyone who needed help in,” Crouse said. “He would always take the shirt off his back for anyone, and mainly the people who lived here were disabled.”
Crews worked to secure the home Friday. Police and fire investigators were on the scene for much of the day collecting evidence.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case.