One of the firefighters injured in last week’s deadly rowhouse blaze in Northwest Baltimore is suffering from burn wounds and could face a long stay in the hospital, a spokesperson for the Baltimore City Fire Department said Sunday.
Lt. Dillon Rinaldo remained in critical but stable condition Sunday in the burn center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said. One other fire fighter, 17-year department veteran Seth Robbins, was still hospitalized from last week’s deadly blaze as of Friday, when the department received its latest update, but Cartwright said his release was expected imminently.
Four fire fighters were injured and a fifth, Rodney Pitts III, was killed in a fire that ignited a group of row homes on the 5200 Block of Linden Heights Avenue on Thursday afternoon. The two other injured fire fighters, Keith Brooks and Tavon Marshall, were treated and released late last week.
Investigators with the fire department’s arson task force and the are still determining what started the fire, with support from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Fire Chief James Wallace said last week that a rapid intervention team went to “attack” the blaze Thursday afternoon and began fighting it from the front and back. As the crew fought the fire, it “started to grow very rapidly,” Wallace said.
Cartwright said at the time that the homes along Linden Heights Avenue did not completely collapse, but it’s likely firefighters responded to a scene with “visibility zero” due to the smoke and “superheated” temperatures rising as high as 1,200 degrees.
In total, four rowhomes caught fire, though it’s not clear in which dwelling the blaze started. Wallace said Friday that preliminary information suggests the structure where Pitts died and the others were injured was “occupied” and flanked by two vacant homes. The city’s inventory of vacant houses, however, indicates that the home where the fire was believed to have started was deemed vacant after an inspection late last month.
A post on the fire department’s Facebook page Saturday evening asked for prayers for Rinaldo and reported he had “suffered serious injuries that may warrant a lengthy hospital stay.”
A GoFundMe campaign for Rinaldo had raised $47,000 toward a $100,000 goal as of Sunday morning. According to the fundraising page, Rinaldo recently got engaged and adopted a dog with his fiancee, a nurse.
“These two do their jobs to help people because they love it and want to make a difference,” the page reads. “They deserve the same love and support from us, the same way they would support and help you and anyone else.”
Another GoFundMe page started by the Baltimore fire fighters union is raising money for the family and children of Pitts III, to help pay for the fallen firefighter’s funeral and other costs. As of Sunday morning, the page had raised $23,928 out of its $200,000 goal.
“Tonight, Baltimore lost a hero, one of our bravest public servants,” Mayor Brandon Scott said of Pitts III in the wake of the fire Thursday night. Pitts III had just started as an active service firefighter in August. No funeral date has been released.
Pitts and the four injured firefighters were honored at Sunday’s Ravens game against the Detroit Lions with their images displayed on a screen at M&T Bank Stadium.
The deadly fire comes less than two years after a vacant home burning on Stricker Street in West Baltimore collapsed, killing three fire fighters in January of 2022. A damning report compiled by regional safety officials later faulted the agency for failing to abide by recommendations made in past reports about close calls and line-of-duty deaths in the city fire department. Former Fire Chief Niles Ford resigned as the report was published.