Danger at a Residential Basement Fire

  There are no shortages of close calls, or worse, related to basement fires in single-family dwellings. In just the past few years, several firefighters have died in the line of duty as a result of operating in such fires. From floor collapse to...


  There are no shortages of close calls, or worse, related to basement fires in single-family dwellings. In just the past few years, several firefighters have died in the line of duty as a result of operating in such fires. From floor collapse to disorientation to delays in getting water...


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Each semester, 18 full-time student volunteers live in the Sackroom. In exchange for their housing, they work three to four evening duty shifts per week. While they can ride as many calls as they like, their duty shift is the only required riding time. Each student volunteer makes several hundred responses per semester. They serve in all capacities including firefighter, EMT, ambulance driver, engine driver, truck driver, line officer and staff officer. Those considering college as a part of their future should look into the CPVFD Sackroom program at www.CPVFD.org.

Our sincere appreciation to acting Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, acting Emergency Operations Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Lamoria, Northern Division Commander Major Steven Hess, Chief Spokesperson Mark Brady, CPVFD Chief William Corrigan (Chief 812), Deputy Chief Ari Schloss (Chief 812-A), Assistant Chief Brandon Frieder (Chief 812-B), Sergeant David Stacy and the firefighters and EMTs of the CPVFD for their assistance and cooperation with this close call. Additionally, our thanks go out to the firefighters from Prince George's County Engine 811/Branchville Volunteer Fire Department, Engine 807/Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department, Engine 813/Riverdale Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Truck 814/Berwyn Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Truck and Engine 801/Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department, Rescue Squad 814/Berwyn Heights, Truck 834/Chillum-Aldelphi and Medic 812/College Park/PGFD career fire/paramedics. Additionally, thanks to Battalion Chief 806 (Matt Tomlins, Chief 841A of the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department/Calverton), Safety Officer 801 (Gary Steen, Chief 819A of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department) and EMS 801 (Captain Mary Crampton, PGFD Paramedic EMS supervisor).

The following account is by CPVFD Chief William Corrigan, the incident commander at this fire:

As a significant snowstorm impacted the DC metro area, companies had been incredibly busy throughout the evening of Jan. 26 into Jan. 27, averaging over 40 runs per station in a 12-hour period. Several companies, including the first- and second-due engines and first-due truck for this incident, had also responded on another working house fire in the area a few hours earlier. Power was out in the entire region and although main roads had been plowed, most side roads were still snow covered.

At 5:34 A.M., the full box alarm consisting of four engine companies, two truck companies and a heavy rescue company was dispatched to 5008 Pierce Ave. in Station 812's first-due area (College Park) reporting a basement fire. Throughout the night, with the implementation of the snow emergency plan, most assignments were downgraded to a two-engine/two-truck response unless the dispatchers suspected a working incident based on caller information. The full box alarm was the first heads-up that this would be a working fire. The neighborhood itself was also a heads-up that this was most likely a working incident. The Lakeland community directly behind the station is a tightly knit residential community that is very quiet from a fire-EMS perspective. Fire calls are quite rare and usually are working incidents.

I arrived on scene first at 5:37. The house was a 1½-story with a basement, Type III single family, built around the World War II timeframe. As I turned the corner onto Pierce Avenue, heavy fire was visible venting from the first floor on sides Alpha and Bravo. As I passed the house to position on side Delta, fire was also visible from the basement windows on sides Bravo and Delta. It was very obvious there was a well-advanced basement fire with a significant amount of extension to the first floor. I was met by a citizen advising me that everyone had already safely evacuated the residence prior to our arrival, after being awakened by a working smoke alarm.

Due to the weather, all of the chief officers from College Park were riding together and all coming from the station, which is unusual. It is very rare for three command officers to arrive simultaneously, especially ahead of the first-arriving engine company. I established command, relaying conditions found to incoming units and our communications. Deputy Chief Ari Schloss was assigned to side Charlie and immediately ran back there to give me a size-up from the rear, which was the only area I had not yet seen. My deputy reported the location of the exterior basement entrance and reported fire showing from the basement in the rear as well.