Valiant Rescue Effort At Maryland Fire

Pete Piringer details efforts to rescue a child from a fast-moving house fire in Prince George’s County.


FD Profile Prince George's County is located along the eastern borders of Washington, D.C., and is home to Andrews Air Force Base, the University of Maryland, the NASA Space Flight Center and other federal, state and local government facilities. The Prince George's County Fire Department is a...


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A few minutes later, while responding south on Baltimore Avenue from Laurel to the call on Virginia Manor Road with Ambulance 319, members of the Medic 3 (Laurel/Rescue) crew came upon the house fire and saw civilians attempting to enter a second-floor window via a ladder. Advising Communications that they were on the scene of a "working" house fire with a child reportedly trapped on the second floor, they noted their location as being north of Cinder Lane, a seldom-used service road off Route 1, well north of Muirkirk Road.

Upon arrival, Paramedic II Angie Turcotte learned that several civilians, including the child's father, had made unsuccessful attempts at a ladder rescue. She decided a similar tactic but was pushed back by the intense heat. In the meantime, hearing confirmation of a trapped child, Battalion Chief Pat Breen requested a Rescue Squad. Rescue Squad 49 (Laurel/Rescue) was dispatched.

Within one minute of Medic 3's report, Engine 311 arrived, confirmed the address to be 12802 Baltimore Ave. and reported a "child trapped." Upon arrival, the structure, a two-story, balloon-constructed, wood-frame house was involved with heavy fire on the first floor and fully charged with thick, black smoke throughout. The house was atop a small hill at the end of a dirt access road about 150 feet from Baltimore Avenue. The house was over one half mile north of the original dispatch assignment location which would actually put it in Laurel's first-response district. The closest hydrant was more than a half mile to the south near an overpass on Muirkirk Road.

Two minutes after the arrival of Engine 311, Tower 10 arrived, followed by Breen, Engines 412, 113 and 112, Rescue Squad 49 and Ambulance 498. Just five minutes after the arrival of the first engine, Engine 352 reported on scene. Two additional engines, 12 (College Park) and 92 (Hillandale-Montgomery County), were dispatched to assist with water supply, along with Rescue Squad 14 (Berwyn Heights) for accountability. While enroute, Engine 121 was involved in a minor accident near its station, at which time Riverdale Engines 71 and 72 were dispatched. Engine 121 cleared and continued its response. Eventually, 58 personnel would be on the scene.

Initial fire department operations concentrated on the rescue of the child trapped on the second floor. The first two arriving firefighters on Engine 311, career Firefighter James Almoney and volunteer Firefighter Ron Haufe, were told by the parents that they believed their child was last seen sleeping in the second-floor bedroom and that several unsuccessful rescue attempts had already been made.

Firefighter Forced To Escape

Almoney, with help from Haufe, climbed the ladder that was already in place and attempted to locate the child on the second floor. After several attempts, working without the protection of a hoseline and as conditions quickly worsened, Almoney was forced to dive out the window into the arms of Haufe, who was on the ladder. Both firefighters were knocked from the ladder to the ground. As this was happening, other firefighters attempted to gain entry through the interior and exterior of the burning structure but encountered various obstacles.

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Photo by Mark E. Brady, Asst. PIO/Prince George's County FD
5. Tremendous conditions cause Almoney to exit quickly, knocking himself and Firefighter Ron Haufe off the ladder as others try to help. Almoney suffered a shoulder injury and burns.

 


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Photo by Mark E. Brady, Asst. PIO/Prince George's County FD
6. The closest hydrant was located a half mile away.

 

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Photo by Mark E. Brady, Asst. PIO/Prince George's County FD
7. The available on-scene water supply carried by apparatus was 2,000 gallons and was used up before a continuous water supply could be established.

 


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Photo by Mark E. Brady, Asst. PIO/Prince George's County FD
8. The quick-spreading blaze was possibly attributed to propane gas used for cooking as well as the balloon frame construction.

 

All attempts to attack and confine the flames became ineffective due to the rapid progression of the fire unknown to the firefighters, the fire was being fed by a small propane tank. The remote location of the house caused logistical problems for engine crews and ultimately required a water relay evolution. The on-scene water supply of 2,000 gallons, carried by responding units, was depleted prior to the completion of a continuous water source from the closest hydrant. Because first-arriving firefighters concentrated on the rescue attempt, while others were not familiar with the location of the nearest water source, it took about 30 minutes to establish an adequate and continuous water supply.