On The Job – Maryland: $8 Million Fire Hits Historic Courthouse in Upper Marlboro

Mark E. Brady reports on a multiple-alarm fire that grew into the biggest fire in Prince George’s County history.


Photo by Mark E. Brady In certain areas of the building, there were three separate ceilings located 15 feet above floor level. Several renovations and additions had been made since the original building was constructed. PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY FIRE/EMS DEPARTMENT Chief...


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Initial-arriving crews conducted a quick and accurate, yet difficult size-up of the situation. The immediate actions of this crew and those of command and control, including thorough implementation of the incident management system, were critical to the successful outcome. There were two minor injuries to firefighters, neither requiring admission to a medical facility.

On the day of the fire, Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson commended firefighters from across the region for their efforts in joining with firefighters from Prince George’s County to extinguish the fire.

“This is a major loss for the residents of Prince George’s County,” Johnson said. “I am grateful to the men and women of all the fire departments, who worked tirelessly to extinguish the blaze and kept it from spreading to the new courthouse.”

“This is the essence of what Prince George’s County is all about, pulling together to help one another in times of need,” said Dr. Jacqueline F. Brown, chief administrative officer for Prince George’s County.

Vernon Herron, deputy chief administrative officer for public safety/director of homeland security, said, “The fire department commanders had to very quickly strategize and choose the tactics necessary to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading to the adjoining structure, they are to be commended for their quick thinking and aggressive actions.”

Johnson, calling it the biggest fire in Prince George’s County history, said, “The old portion of the court complex pretty much burned down. We lost our most historic building in Prince George’s County.” He vowed to begin rebuilding as soon as possible.


The Rescue After the Fire

An early-morning fire in the District Heights section of Prince George’s County, MD, destroyed most of a home’s contents and displaced a family of five. Firefighters from the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department extinguished the fire and ensured that everyone was safe and had a place to stay for a few nights.

Firefighters from the Third Battalion, however, weren’t satisfied with just putting out the fire. They felt compelled to do more.

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Photo by Mark E. Brady
Natasha Burroughs, her son Joseph and Third Battalion members after the family moved into their new apartment. “I didn’t know that firefighters did this type of thing,” she said.

Shortly after midnight on July 20, 2004, units from the Third Battalion were dispatched to Burroughs’ home for a reported fire. Upon arrival, units encountered a 1½-story single-family dwelling with fire showing from the kitchen windows. The fire, caused by food left cooking on a stove, caused $40,000 in damage. The family had escaped from the burning house prior to the arrival of firefighters.

Although the fire was extinguished within 10 minutes, the damage was done. The fire destroyed most of the family’s belongings, and what was left was damaged by water and smoke. Firefighters moved the family’s remaining possessions to Morningside Fire/EMS Station 27. They cleaned and repaired the furniture as best they could and laundered the clothing. Donations were sought and the community responded by bringing clothing to District Heights Fire/EMS Station 26.

Firefighters went to apartment managers and interceded for the Burroughs family in the hopes of helping obtain housing for the family, who were staying with friends. On Sept. 4, Burroughs and her children moved into a three-bedroom apartment in Suitland. Firefighters from the Morningside and District Heights stations loaded pickup trucks with the donated clothing and the rest of the Burroughs family’s possessions. Natasha and her son Joseph greeted them at the door of their new home.

“I am really appreciative of everything they have done,” Burroughs said. “I didn’t know that firefighters did this type of thing. They certainly have gone above and beyond what I expected.”

Captain Stephen Gallagher, 16-year veteran, and Technician Mark Thorn, a 12-year veteran, assigned to the Morningside station, spearheaded this effort. “I grew up in a family with a single mom,” Thorn said. “I wish someone would have done this for me. The morning of the fire, it was an internal feeling, we all felt the need to do something.”