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On Feb. 24, 2012, the Prince George’s County, MD, Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department (PGFD) responded to a fire in a single-family dwelling fire in Riverdale Heights. During firefighting operations, seven firefighters were injured. Some of these firefighters received significant burn injuries and were hospitalized for a long period. The fire was determined to be arson.
Given the severity of the injuries and the magnitude of the event, an investigative team was ordered by Fire Chief Marc Bashoor in accordance with the department’s “General Order 08-18: Safety Investigation Team.” Beginning this month, Firehouse® Close Calls will provide an overview of the fire as well as the process that was used to determine what went wrong – and how those issues can be avoided in the future.
Additionally, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Office of the Fire Marshal conducted an investigation to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Assisted by members of the Prince George’s County Police Department and special agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was incendiary in nature. At the time of this writing, this case remains as an open active criminal investigation.
Prince George’s County is immediately north, east and south of Washington, DC, and part of the Baltimore-Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area. According to the 2010 Census, the county has a population of 871,233. The county has a total area of 498.45 square miles, of which 485.43 square miles, 97.39%, is land and 13.01 square miles, or 2.61%, is water. The Patuxent River forms its eastern border with Anne Arundel, Calvert and Howard counties.
PGFD delivers services through a network of 44 fire stations strategically positioned throughout the county. Stations are staffed by 810 career members and 1,563 volunteer members. The department is responsible for all fire suppression and prevention throughout the county and provides both basic life support (BLS) and advanced life support (ALS) emergency medical care. In addition, PGFD provides technical and water rescue services, hazardous materials and bomb response as well as investigations and a large array of community-based services. It has mutual aid and automatic mutual aid agreements with the surrounding jurisdictions and it supports regional and national emergency response operations during disaster situations.
PGFD is the largest and busiest combination fire department in North America. In 2012, it responded to 135,383 incidents, with EMS runs accounting for nearly 80% of services. It is important to note that the county has not yet achieved full build-out. It is anticipated that the population will continue to grow and overall call volume and support requirements will increase and become even more challenging.
On Feb. 24, 2012, at 9:11 P.M., PGFD personnel responded to a structure fire at 6404 57th Ave. in Riverdale Heights. Apparatus and personnel from the following companies were alerted and responded: Station 807, Riverdale VFD (Engine 807B with six firefighters), Station 809, Bladensburg VFD (Engine 809 with four firefighters and Truck 809 with four firefighters), Station 801, Hyattsville VFD (Engine 801 with six firefighters, Truck 801 with eight firefighters and Rescue Squad 801 with eight firefighters), Station 812, College Park VFD (Engine 812 with four firefighters and a probationary firefighter), Battalion Chief 884 and Chiefs 809A, 812 and 812A.
On arrival, PGFD personnel saw fire extending out of a basement window on the Bravo side, pressurized smoke on the first floor on the Alpha side and high winds impacting the rear of the structure. A “working fire dispatch” was transmitted by Engine 807B, the first-arriving engine. That dispatch automatically added the following to the first-alarm assignment: BLS Ambulance 855 (Bunker Hill), Medic 812, Northern Safety Officer, EMS Duty Officer, two Citizen Support Units, BLS Ambulance 809 (Bladensburg) and Northern Division Chief.