By Mike Hellgren

CATONSVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — An elderly mother and the son taking care of her died in a fast-moving house fire in Baltimore County Friday morning.

Friends said 54-year-old Timothy Schwartz lived with his 93-year-old mother Avonne Schwartz in Catonsville. Flames tore through their home just before 7 a.m.

“Tim was such a great guy,” his friend Rich Edwards told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “His mother was so very, very nice. I can’t believe this happened.”


He said Timothy lived in the basement of the home and he would often check in on him. “He’d put his whole life on hold to take care of his mom and just stay there by her.”


Neighbors called 911, and one of the first firefighters on the scene became trapped in the burning structure and had to be rescued.

“Firefighter through the floor!” a fellow first responder said on dispatch recordings WJZ reviewed. Word of his rescue came minutes later: “Confirmed. Firefighter out of the basement. Receiving medical attention.”


The Baez family, who lives next door to the Schwartz home in the 1300-block of Denbright Road, said they heard a “pop” and then saw flames and smoke quickly fill the house.

“It was completely in flames, and I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. I’ve been around this house all my life,“ said Matthew Baez. “They are like family. I’ve known them since I moved into this house 18 years ago.“

Jessica Baez said the flames moved fast: “I looked outside, and that’s when I saw the flames coming from the basement. The whole house was engulfed in flames,” she said.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause. They do believe the fire started in the basement and spread to the rest of the house

Photo of the deadly house fire courtesy of neighbor Matthew D. Baez.

“In the basement, we had a lot of storage—almost hoarder conditions—so it was a bit difficult for them to get water in the fire. It took a lot of time,” said Lt. Travis Francis of the Baltimore County Fire Department.

A second alarm was eventually called, which brought more than 75 firefighters and EMS personnel to the scene. This was one of two fires in Baltimore County Friday morning alone.

A fire in Baltimore City injured a firefighter the day before.

Last December, another 93-year-old woman lost her life in a fire less than half a mile from where the Schwartz family died Friday morning.

“We are just reminding people to please make sure you have working smoke detectors and a secondary escape route to get out in case this ever happens so everyone knows you are safe,” Lt. Francis said.