Roof Collapse Traps Firefighters at MD Church Fire

Nov. 20, 2023
The collapse of a Chevy Chase church's roof briefly trapped D.C. firefighters during the two-alarm fire.

Several firefighters were briefly trapped Monday when a partial collapse occurred at a church fire in Chevy Chase.

Montgomery County firefighters were called to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around 12:25 p.m. when someone inside the church saw smoke, spokesman Pete Piringer told Firehouse.com. 

D.C. Fire and EMS crews were also dispatched because the church is located on Western Avenue — the street that divides Montgomery County and the Distict of Columbia. 

Mongomery County crews found smoke coming from the roof of the church and, once inside, located fire in the attic space and stretched attack lines.

"Firefighters with D.C. Rescue Squad 1 and our (Bethesda Chevy-Chase) Rescue Squad 1 were working with some of our engine companies when things started to deteorotiate on the interior," Piringer said.

Command was notified and crews were ordered to evacuate. 

"Very quickly after that order, a Montgomery County crew reported that there was a  potential for a emminant collapse....as it was radioed, they called a mayday and reported an interior structual collapse," said Piringer. Several D.C. firefighters were trapped under the debris.

The rapid intervention crews were actived and firefighters moved inside to position handlines to protect them," he said. 

"The firefighters were able to self-rescue or get some assistance to get out," he said. "It all happened within in a few minutes."

Piringer said two firefighters were evaluated on scene but did not require hospital treatement. 

Crews regrouped and used a defensive attack on the fire, but most of the roof collapsed as the fire burned. 

About 100 firefighters responded and the fire was placed under control two hours after they arrived.

Piringer estimated the damage to be over $5 million.

The cause of the fire is under investigation but he said it was accidential.