CAMBRIDGE — Three people, including a child, lost their lives and two others were injured in a house fire that started just after midnight on Thursday, April 1, in Cambridge.
Investigators are still looking for the cause of a fire that claimed the lives of 8-year-old Addy Nahrwold (daughter of Whitney Sussex), 18-year-old K’Lyn Downs and Downs’s father, 41-year-old Matthew Woodard. The fire also left 31-year-old Whitney Sussex with serious injuries, including burns.
Sussex was transported by ambulance to Tidal Health in Salisbury and then was taken to Johns Hopkins Burn Center in Baltimore for more advanced medical treatment. Sussex’s older daughter, 11-year-old Lilly, was taken by ambulance to Tidal Health in Salisbury for minor injuries after a state police trooper and Cambridge police officer assisted her off of a landing she escaped to via a window on the second floor of the structure. She was treated and later released.
Donations are being collected to assist the survivors, and a “Celebration of Life for Matthew, K’Lyn, Addy” for the deceased is planned for 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 10, in the parking lot behind Fat Ricky’s restaurant.
Cambridge’s Rescue Fire Company began response to the blaze in the house on the 400 block of High Street at 12:22 a.m., after a neighbor called 911.
RFC Chief Adam Pritchett said that a second alarm to request other county fire companies was added minutes after the initial dispatch, and that upon his arrival, he called for a third alarm to be sounded to summon several other surrounding fire departments to assist with suppression activities due to the size of the building and the fire load that was present.
Pritchett said upon his arrival, EMS personnel were attending to two people who had jumped from the window of the apartment, and the officers were helping the 11-year-old from the second floor of the rear of the building.
Approximately 75 firefighters from departments from Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline and Wicomico counties battled the blaze in the three-story brick structure that contained two apartments until it was under control in about 90 minutes.
Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Gregory Der said the origin did not appear to be criminal in nature; the investigation into the cause is ongoing. Der someone within the structure was alerted by a smoke detector and called 911.
The bodies of the deceased victims were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
Neighbor Darryl Jones said he was alerted to the fire across the street from his residence by a popping noise he thought was gunfire. He went to the window to see the upper level of the house completely engulfed in flames.
Jones went outside and was there before fire units responded. He said he saw the roof as it caved in and could feel the heat from the blaze across the street.
During the interview with Jones, a passerby paused to inquire about the status of the occupants. The man who did not wish to be named said he was acquainted with Woodard. “He was a cool guy,” he said.
In the days following the fire, expressions of sadness and sympathy for the family were posted extensively on social media.
“There are no words to describe how tragic it is, people have been so kind and generous,” said Cynthia Woodard, Matthew’s grandmother, of the fire and the outpouring of support. “There are wonderful people in this world, and we’re among them.”
Cambridge Mayor Andrew Bradshaw posted his condolences: “I’m heartbroken and devastated today. Last night the City of Cambridge witnessed an unspeakable tragedy as it suffered an apartment fire that led to three fatalities, including that of a child and a teen. Another victim is hospitalized in critical condition.
“Please keep the victims, their families and friends, the volunteers who responded, and our city in your prayers.”