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Jerry Engle claims he watched as three firefighters set a vacant house on fire in early 2008, in Riverdale Park, Maryland. According to Engle, he left an anonymous letter for the chief and president of the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department alerting them to this serious problem. Engle says no actions were taken.
Jerry Engle, a long time volunteer firefighter at Riverdale and three other fire companies in Prince George’s County, told STATter911.com on Tuesday that he didn’t bring up the incident again until a little more than a month ago. That’s when Engle was accused of stealing equipment from the Riverdale firehouse and began providing information to fire investigators about the year-old arson.
Video of March 17, 2008 fire at 5413 Riverdale Road. The Bladensburg VFD website has pictures and more details of this fire, reported at 6:21 AM. There are also more pictures here. It appears the house also burned in the early morning hours of March 15, 2008 and possibly in the evening hours of March 16, 2007.
The house that burned used to sit on what is now a vacant lot at 5413 Riverdale Road. Engle believes the incident he witnessed occurred in March of 2008. There is a YouTube video from March 17, 2008 of a fire occurring at that house. According to area fire department websites the same house also burned two days earlier in the early morning hours of March 15, 2008 and possibly in the evening hours of March 16, 2007.
Engle claims the episode began when he drove the fire engine to check out a report of smoke in the area during the overnight hours. According to Engle, he waited inside the cab of the engine as the three other firefighters on board walked toward the home carrying road flares. Thinking that was odd, Engle says he followed the firefighters and saw them using the flares to ignite debris inside the house.
According to Engle, he drove the fire engine with the crew back to the Riverdale firehouse a few blocks away. Once there, Engle says two firefighters then left the fire station with a gasoline can. A short time later the call was dispatched for a house fire at 5413 Riverdale Road.
The Riverdale VFD website has details and pictures of what is apparently the March 17, 2008 fire that is similar to Engle’s account:
At about 0545 hours, a citizen heading to work called the station stating he smelled what seem to be mulch burning in the area of Tanglewood Drive and Riverdale Road. He added that he did not see any smoke or fire in the area. The station notified Public Safety Communications (PSC) and responded to the location with E807 staffed with 8 volunteers. After arriving in the area and finding nothing the crew returned to the station.
As they were heading back to bed, PSC alerted the station for a reported house on fire at Kenilworth Avenue and Riverdale Road at 0621 hours. E807 went on scene at 5413 Riverdale Road with fire and heavy smoke coming from the 3 story vacant structure.
(Note: The Riverdale VFD website actually lists this fire as March 16, 2008, but two other sites show it as March 17.)
Jerry Engle contacted STATter911.com immediately after Monday’s raid at the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department. Fire investigators served a search warrant looking for evidence of a possible arson ring involving firefighters. Engle says a warrant was also served at the Bowie area home where he is currently living.
Jerry Engle denies being involved in the Riverdale Road fire or setting any other fires, but admits investigators have questioned him extensively about the arsons. Engle wants the investigators to administer a polygraph examination to prove he is innocent.
Engle believes the investigators were already looking at the possibility firefighters were involved in a string of arsons when he provided the information about the Riverdale fire.
Sources indicate a handful of volunteer firefighters remain operationally suspended as the investigation continues. This includes three firefighters at Riverdale. One of the suspended Riverdale volunteers is also a career firefighter in Montgomery County.
Contacted about Engle’s allegations, Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charles Ryan III, says the department stands by its previous statements that they are cooperating 100 percent with fire investigators.
Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Chief Spokesman Mark Brady says the department can’t make any comments about the case because the search warrants served by investigators remain sealed.
In a previous statement issued by Brady, the department acknowledged investigators were looking at suspicious fires in six vacant homes, but made no mention of the possibility that firefighters were the suspects. The fire identified by Engle is not on that list.
Engle has long been a controversial figure in the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. He wrote a book called Probie Days about Engle’s many years with the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department, one of the busiest volunteer fire companies in the world.
Last year, videos surfaced of Engle’s time at Kentland. It showed firefighters apparently hazing a new firefighter and shooting off illegal fireworks inside the station. Engle was seen using his body as a launching pad for a bottle rocket.
Engle drives a red Volkswagen adorned with numerous pieces of small fire equipment, including nozzles and axes. Many firefighters who have seen the vehicle have questioned how Engle got the equipment. Engle says none of the items were stolen, but they are surplus equipment he was allowed to take from the various stations where he was a volunteer.
Engle admits his departures from the volunteer fire departments at Kentland, Riverdale and Bladensburg each involved controversy. Engle was suspended from the Riverdale Heights Volunteer Fire Department in March following the accusations that he stole items while his company was transferred to the Riverdale station. Engle says the nozzle and nozzle bale he took were his own that he had left behind after parting ways with Riverdale VFD last year.
Engle say he was told by a top official in the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department that he is now permanently barred from being a firefighter in the county.
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