The families of three firefighters who died in a blaze at a vacant home on Stricker Street two years ago are suing the city, saying officials were negligent for not cataloging dangerous and structurally unsound buildings.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Maryland, accused the Baltimore Mayor’s Office and City Council of failing to follow through on a promise from 2010 to maintain and mark buildings that were unsafe, so firefighters wouldn’t be inside of structures deemed likely to collapse.

“It was an intentional and egregious pattern of conduct, committed over more than ten years, with such conscience-shocking deliberate indifference to the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights as to infer the City’s intention to harm the plaintiffs,” attorneys Allen E. Honick and Dustin Furman wrote in the lawsuit.

The suit is being brought by the families of Lt. Kelsey Sadler, Lt. Paul Butrim, and EMT/firefighter Kenny Lacayo, who died in the Jan. 24, 2022, fire, as well as EMT/firefighter John McMaster, who was injured.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The blaze tore through a vacant home in the Mount Clare neighborhood. Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford abruptly resigned in December 2022 after the publication of a report critical of the department and how it handled close calls before the Stricker Street fire.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives later determined the fire was sparked, either intentionally or accidentally, during criminal activity.

The families said the city’s neglect of the Mount Clare neighborhood for decades increased the chances of a deadly fire taking place. Little development or public money has gone to the neighborhood because city officials focused on other areas where it believed outside investors would spend money, the families said.

“Although vacant homes are not unique to Mount Clare, the City’s approach there certainly is,” the families said. “Baltimore has an inglorious history of neglecting vacant properties in certain neighborhoods, which has caused significant damage to real property and has injured and killed many firefighters and Baltimore residents.”

The city also left the Fire Department understaffed for years, the families said, and that lack of staffing in firehouses put the four firefighters in danger.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“It was not a matter of whether what occurred in this case would happen, but when,” the families said in the lawsuit.

When firefighters arrived at the Stricker Street building, there was no exterior sign or marking and no information in the department’s internal systems warning about prior collapses or that the property had been condemned, according to the lawsuit.

The families are seeking unspecified damages in excess of $75,000. The city did not immediately file a response to the lawsuit.

More From The Banner