Brother Finds Body Baltimore Firefighters Missed in Building

Family wants to know why firefighters didn't ascend the stairs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2022 3:00 AM CST
Brother Finds Body Baltimore Firefighters Missed in Building
A burned out warehouse is seen, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Baltimore. A man was found dead inside the building Sunday morning, hours after Baltimore firefighters extinguished the blaze.   (AP Photo/Lea Skene)

Several hours after firefighters extinguished a warehouse fire in southwest Baltimore early Sunday, the scene was eerily quiet as Donte Craig stepped through the charred rubble, trying to remain hopeful. He was looking for his older brother James Craig Jr., who leased the warehouse for his demolition and hauling business. After hearing about the fire, which was reported around 11:30pm Saturday, family members grew increasingly concerned throughout the night because James Craig Jr. wasn’t answering calls or texts. Finally, his brother drove to the scene late Sunday morning. Inside the building, he found the body of his 45-year-old brother on the second floor, the AP reports. Baltimore Police have launched a homicide investigation.

As the investigation unfolds, family members are demanding answers. They want to know how firefighters initially failed to realize the building was occupied. Their questions add to growing controversy surrounding the Baltimore Fire Department and its policies, which came under scrutiny after three firefighters died responding to a call early this year. The chief resigned last week in response to an investigative report that found numerous deficiencies. In response to questions about the warehouse fire, officials said they had no reason to believe anyone was inside the two-story commercial building. They also said the building was ultimately deemed structurally unsafe for firefighters to enter. But the Craig family said there were signs of occupancy, including about a half-dozen dogs spending the night in an adjacent enclosure, which were taken to an animal shelter.

James Craig Jr. used the first floor of the warehouse as a workshop, but he also had a bedroom upstairs where he sometimes stayed after working late. He collapsed near the top of the stairs, according to his brother. “He was trying to get out,” Donte Craig said in an interview at the scene Tuesday afternoon. He pointed to the staircase leading to the second floor. While parts of the building were severely damaged from the flames—including sections of the walls and floorboards that were reduced to charcoal and ash—the metal staircase remained intact. Donte Craig said he easily walked up the stairs Sunday morning and spotted his brother’s body before reaching the top. He questioned why firefighters didn’t make a similar effort. (More on the fire, and the fire department's existing turmoil, here.)

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