This is one of the most compelling newspaper articles about the fire service I have read in some team. Washington Post reporter J. Freedom du Lac takes us inside the world of Kevin O’Toole and Ethan Sorrell, two young firefighters with the Bladensburg VFD in Prince George’s County, Maryland who almost died in a house fire on February 24, 2012. The two friends tell their story from that awful night and you learn what their lives have been like since they were critically injured. Here’s how it begins, but take the time to read the whole article:
He didn’t hide his scars. That part of the healing had finally begun.
Nearly half of Kevin O’Toole’s body had been burned the night a vacant house turned into a firetrap, injuring seven Prince George’s County firefighters. O’Toole had gotten the worst of an arsonist’s malevolence, and surgeons had operated on him 13 times since – at first to save his life; more recently to reconstruct his hands, which were so badly damaged that doctors feared that he’d never regain use of the right and that they’d have to amputate the left.
Now he was sitting in the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department’s day room, the same spot he’d been when the box alarm sounded on the night everything went wrong. The 22-year-old from New York still couldn’t withstand exposure to open flames or serious heat. Even so, O’Toole had traveled four hours from Long Island just to pass time with the guys at the firehouse and help out however he could. A year and a half into his recovery, it was as close as he could get to re-becoming who he’d been.
I wasn’t sure I was going to again post my personal account of September 11, 2001 until a few days ago. That’s when I came across a news article on the web talking about the terrorist attacks of 12-years-ago. It mentioned that one of those attacks occurred “on a plane that crash-landed in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania”. Obviously the details of that enormously tragic day are already muddy in the minds of many, even those whose job it is to keep others informed about such events. It was a good reminder why those who witnessed this history in New York, Arlington, Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania need to keep telling their stories.
Mine is just the story of an observer who had a close-up view for a little while at the Pentagon. There are much more important stories out there about amazingly heroic efforts to save lives and to get people out of harm’s way. Please make sure you, your children and grandchildren know these stories.
The account below came about because in October of 2001 I was asked by journalist Allison Gilbert to contribute my experiences at the Pentagon to a book called Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11. While I knew I was only one of many TV and radio reporters and anchors who would be contributing to the book, and Allison would only be using a couple of blurbs, it was an opportunity for me to write a chronology of the day and put a few thoughts down. It concludes with a postscript written 40-days after the attacks that looks at the public’s perception of firefighters following the enormous sacrifice made by 343 members of the Fire Department of New York.
September 11, 2001
8:52 AM: Spending time with my son is always the best way to start the day. Sam, almost two years old, is eating his breakfast. I bring my toast into the den to sit with him. The television is on so we can do what we usually do in the morning, watch my wife, Hillary Howard, Sam’s mom, do the weather on WUSA-TV. Instead of the “Early Show” ending to make way for local news, I see the open to a “CBS News Special Report”. I turn the sound up, but don’t need Bryant Gumbel to tell me that something is very wrong at one of the World Trade Center towers. The thick, black smoke pouring out of many windows and from the roof makes it very clear this is a major disaster in the making. Gumbel says there is a report that a plane hit the building. Those words send me out of the room and upstairs to quickly finish getting dressed.
9:03 AM: I occasionally glance at the TV upstairs. A little slow to comprehend some of what it going on, it dawns on me that this appears to be a crystal clear day. I am starting to wonder if this plane crash is really an accident. As I think about calling the newsroom to suggest we might be dealing with a terrorist attack of some sort, any doubts I had are immediately erased. My head quickly turns toward to the TV as I hear a woman say to Byrant Gumbel, “Oh, there is another one! Another plane just hit! Oh, my gosh! Another plane has hit! Another building! Flew right into the middle of it. Explosion.”
It hit me instantly that our lives have suddenly changed.
9:05 AM: On the phone to the station, I talk to Dave Roberts, our news director. I am convinced that if the people who did this were organized enough to quickly hit two targets like the World Trade Center towers, Washington would be next. We decide I will head into town to start looking around for increased security measures and be ready if another attack occurs.
9:10 AM: No time for our normal goodbye ritual. I give Sam a quick kiss and hug. Sam says something about “Jay Jay”. “Jay Jay the Jet Plane”, Sam’s favorite TV show, comes on soon. Not knowing what he may have already seen on TV this morning, I tell him calmly that “Jay Jay” is having a bad day. With the uncertainty of what was ahead, I didn’t want to leave Sam. I knew, though, he was in good hands with Glenda, the woman who takes care of him while we are at work.
9:15 AM: Realizing my good friend, Dan Patrick, our night assignment manager, is probably asleep and has no idea what is going on, I wake him. Dan doesn’t believe me when I describe the events of the morning along with my concern that Washington is next. Certainly I would have thought this was one of his sick practical jokes if the situation were reversed. Hanging up, I’m not sure he is convinced that this is for real.
9:25 AM: My first stop, the State Department. I circle the block and notice some extra officers being deployed around the building. Other street activity appears normal. Checking out the Pentagon never enters my mind.
9:38 AM: East bound on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, I turn north on 17th Street. At that moment the scanners in my car come alive. On numerous police and fire radio frequencies, people are yelling that a plane hit the Pentagon. Making a fast U-turn, I see the smoke rising across the Potomac River. I get the assignment desk on the phone. It’s a bad connection. I yell into the phone, “Pentagon, Pentagon, Pentagon. Send everyone to the Pentagon. I should be there soon.”
I carefully bust a few lights on southbound 17th Street. Making a right turn, traffic is light on westbound Independence Avenue.
9:41 AM: Anchors Mike Buchanan and Andrea Roane break into CBS coverage to report that there has been an apparent plane crash at the Pentagon. They have distant, but clear pictures of the Pentagon ablaze from our rooftop camera in Rosslyn.
9:43 AM: There is also little traffic heading outbound on the Memorial Bridge. Across the river, I now have a distant view of the Pentagon. The very black smoke I am seeing is surely caused by the fuel, now burning, that was in the plane’s tanks. I call the control room to try and get on the air, but the call cuts out as the anchors lead to me.
9:44 AM: Somehow I end up on southbound Washington Boulevard directly in front of the Pentagon helipad. That is good news, but for the moment it does me no good because there is wireless gridlock. I am unable to get a phone call out.
9:46 AM: I have my home video camera out and on the tripod, rolling off a few shots. The phone still isn’t working.
9:48 AM: Walking down Washington Boulevard is Heather Cabot a recently hired reporter for WUSA. She tells me her phone isn’t getting out either. I ask her to take over my camera and I will work on trying to get a phone call to the station. Heather tells me she is with photographer Mike Trammel. I look back to see Trammel and put my camera away.
9:52 AM: Heather’s phone finally gets through. I describe the scene as firefighters from Ft. Meyer and National Airport put the first water and foam on the burning Pentagon. Some people are looking at the sky, making sure another plane isn’t approaching. I suggest to Heather, that it is probably a good idea for us to do the same. Amazingly traffic on northbound Washington Boulevard has not been blocked and drivers are just whizzing by the burning Pentagon as they head to work.
A familiar red van pulls a few feet past us. It is one of our microwave vans with Bruce Bookholtz at the wheel. I am a bit amazed that, with no communication, we all end up at the same spot.
We hear a number of small pops and explosions. I am guessing those are tires popping from the vehicles that were parked against the building and are now burning, or possibly some small canisters exploding. Among the vehicles on fire is the new crash/rescue fire truck, belonging to the Ft. Meyer Fire Department. It is stationed at the Pentagon and is routinely on hand for helicopter landings and takeoffs, in case of an emergency. It is a fire truck designed for just this rare event, a plane crash, and it can’t be used.
9:55 AM: Heather tells me to look down on the street around us. I was so intent on watching the burning Pentagon, I hadn’t noticed there are what appear to be small pieces from the airplane at my feet. I had already seen the large amount of debris scattered on the Pentagon lawn, but so far no piece is large enough to be easily identified as an airplane part.
9:57 AM: Our first live video is on the air. You see flames crawling up the familiar face of the Pentagon along with some of the first victims as they are carried away from the building.
9:59 AM: I am on the air with Michael Kelly, an eyewitness Heather pulled out of the crowd. Kelly was driving on nearby I-395 when he saw the plane take aim on the Pentagon.
10:00 AM: Anchor Andrea Roane interrupts me, “Dave, Dave, Dave. We want to break in, because we want to go back to New York, where Dan Rather is anchoring our coverage, where one of the towers at the World Trade Center has collapsed”.
These words stop me in my tracks for a moment. I have no TV monitor to see this for myself. Just Andrea’s words. It doesn’t compute in my brain. I had been a firefighter. I had studied high-rise firefighting. There had been a number of major high-rise fires throughout the world that burned for many hours. To my knowledge there had never been a catastrophic collapse of an entire building. This was just one of many things happening today that no one has ever had to deal with.
Knowing how aggressive New York firefighters are, I realize there must be scores of dead rescuers. The last pictures I saw out of New York were from an hour ago. Even then it was pretty apparent, from the amount of fire, that anyone at the impact points and above had little chance of survival.
10:05 AM: They come back to me for our first interview with someone who was in the Pentagon at the time of the attack. Two or three men on stretchers pass by us. It is our first close-up look at the injured and they are severely, if not critically burned over a good portion of their bodies. These victims are flown out by helicopter to a hospital burn unit. Their lives will never be the same.
10:10 AM: A Virginia State Trooper starts moving everyone back. There is concern another plane is coming toward the Pentagon. We don’t move.
10:15 AM: As they come back to our live shot, five floors suddenly collapse around the jet’s impact point. There is now a large gash on the west side of the Pentagon.
10:18 AM: People start running away from the Pentagon. This time, FBI agents are telling us another plane is just minutes out. They order us to move immediately. I am able to get in a few quick words, attempting to explain to Mike and Andrea what is happening, before the transmitter is turned off and the live truck’s mast starts coming down.
10:28 AM: We move just a short distance off Washington Boulevard and down the ramp to Columbia Pike. As Bruce tries to re-establish a signal, I hear through my earpiece that the second tower in New York has collapsed. I just can’t imagine what it going on in Manhattan. The death toll must be staggering. I recall my wife once telling me her grandfather hauled truckloads of steel used to build the Twin Towers. Now those buildings don’t exist.
10:32 AM: We are again feeding live pictures of the burning Pentagon.
10:36 AM: Witnesses are giving different descriptions of the plane that hit the building. Some say it is an American Airlines 757, while others believe it was a business jet. The fire is still burning out of control.
10:38 AM: Mike Buchanan asks me if I have seen any large pieces of an airplane at the scene. As I answer this question, he interrupts me,“Hold on Dave. Hold on just a second. We’ve got a bulletin from AP. A large plane has just crashed in Western Pennsylvania.”
Mike also reads an AP report about a car bomb going off at the State Department. We are just across the river from State and we didn’t hear an explosion.
10:42 AM: An F-16 makes a low pass near the Pentagon. That, along with the plane crash in Pennsylvania, makes me think there was something to the threats that forced us move away from the building. I notice a large group of people huddled under the Washington Boulevard overpass.
10:52 AM: A Lt. Colonel with Air Force Public Affairs passes our location. We snag him. He urges people to keep far away from the Pentagon. If you have loved ones you can’t account for, he asks that you not come to the Pentagon. He has no idea of the number of dead or injured. Not much in the way of information, but it is the first official word.
WUSA anchorman Gordon Peterson, who was originally sent to nearby National Airport for a flight to New York, arrives at our location.
10:54 AM: Mike and Andrea confirm there was no car bomb at the State Department. A little bit of good news.
11:06 AM: Gordon interviews Mike Walter, a television reporter for “USA Today Live”. Mike, on his way to work in Rosslyn, witnessed the Pentagon crash and offers the most vivid description so far.
11:10 AM: We are again ordered to move our live truck further away from the Pentagon.
11:31 AM: Our shot is back up. This time, from a hill in front of the Quick Mart. This Citgo, looks like a normal service station, but it is exclusively for use by military personnel.
11:39 AM: The fire is spreading. Suddenly there are flames showing in a number of windows far from the point of impact.
People again start moving quickly from the Pentagon. There is more talk of another hijacked plane heading our way.
11:52 AM: Again, more people rush from the Pentagon.
12:16 PM: I listen to Dan Patrick, with a phone report, describe his attempts to get from Northern Virginia to the TV station in Northwest Washington. Dan says he had to show identification to a police officer and explain his business in the city. Only then was he allowed to cross Key Bridge into Georgetown. The city is in lockdown.
12:18 PM: Gordon notices an ambulance convoy from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad pull up along Columbia Pike. It was a repeat of a scene I had witnessed, just on the other side of the Pentagon, almost 20 years earlier. The same Maryland squad sent a similar contingent after Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge on January 13th, 1982.
12:20 PM: If I am not convinced how much turmoil there is in the country from these attacks, this does it. Mike and Andrea announce Disney World is being evacuated.
12:28 PM: A Navy public affairs officer officially confirms what has been painfully obvious. Besides the dead on the aircraft, Pentagon workers are dead inside the building. He has no idea how many people didn’t get out.
12:32 PM: Talking on the air with Mike and Andrea, it still isn’t clear which of the four hijacked jets smashed into the Pentagon. Right now, American Airlines believes the hijacked flight from Dulles crashed into one of the towers in New York.
Police move everyone, including the news media, off the hillside. Bruce pulls the truck around to the other end of the service station lot. This fourth move winds up being our last. It becomes home for the better part of two weeks.
1:19 PM: The first official briefing from the Pentagon. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, announces that this was “a full assault on the United States of America”. The admiral says there was no way to prepare for an attack like this. I am shaking my head at the fact that the spokesman for the military headquarters of the United States of America is forced to talk to the world from a service station parking lot.
1:30 PM: CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins me on the air for a few minutes. Our first time working together was at WTOP radio, 20 years ago, covering the Air Florida plane crash. Jamie says they always anticipated a terrorist attack at the Pentagon, but figured it would be on the other side of the building where all the top brass is located.
Off camera, Jamie tells me that just yesterday his son’s class in middle school had a discussion about the bombing in Oklahoma City. Jamie’s son told the class he always worries about his dad being hurt by an attack like this, because his dad works at the Pentagon. Jamie tried getting word to the school to let his son know he was okay.
1:50 PM: Andrea announces that the Urban Search and Rescue Team from Fairfax County, known as Virginia Task Force 1, has been activated and will be at the Pentagon shortly.
American Airlines now says they aren’t sure where Flight 77 ended up.
WUSA-TV’s Mike Trammel’s shot of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (third from the right) helping carry one of the injured from the Pentagon to a waiting ambulance.
1:56 PM: Admiral Quigley sets the tone for his second briefing by saying “you are going to have a lot more questions than I have answers.” Quigley doesn’t have an answer to the one question all of us are asking. He can only say, “we know there are casualties.”
He tells us Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was among the Pentagon workers hurrying from the building after the explosion. Rumsfeld helped the injured for about 15 minutes, getting several people onto stretchers. Then he went back inside to the National Military Command Center. The command center is reportedly smoky, but not damaged. (NOTE: Approaching the one-year anniversary of the attack, CNN’s Vito Maggiolo contacted me after looking at the raw video from September 11 shot by WUSA-TV photojournalist Mike Trammel. While many people had viewed that video, and all of it played out in front my own eyes, Vito was the only person to notice that one of the men carrying a stretcher with one of the first victims removed from the Pentagon was Secretary Rumsfeld.)
2:10 PM: Virginia Task Force 1 arrives. Normally Fairfax County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team is sent to some far off land by way of military transport. This time it was just a quick drive down Interstate 66 to the county on its eastern border.
2:23 PM: WUSA Photographer Greg Guise is able to provide some details surrounding the hijacked jet that went down in Pennsylvania. Greg grew up a few miles from the crash site and has business interests in the community. Greg relays a description of the scene from a radio engineer friend in Somerset County.
2:43 PM: For the past few hours we’ve seen no ambulances leave the area with lights and siren. We’re pretty certain that anyone alive is already being treated. Now reporter Jennifer Ryan, at the Virginia Hospital Center, confirms no more victims are expected from the Pentagon.
2:49 PM: Mike and Andrea report it’s now fairly clear the plane wreckage at the Pentagon is from American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles.
2:55 PM: Rear Admiral Stephen Pietropaoli, U.S. Navy Office of Information, tells us that in the recently renovated wedge of the Pentagon, where the attack occurred, there is blast resistant glass on the windows. In the days to come we hear from many who believe that this very expensive glass saved lives.
3:53 PM: Now briefing us at the Citgo press center, Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clark and Defense Protective Service Chief John Jester. Jester tells us the impact from the jet extends through to the C ring, the middle of the 5 rings of the Pentagon. All we see from our location, is that a portion of the E ring, the outer most portion of the Pentagon, has crumbled.
Clark admits she can’t confirm that all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are accounted for. That news is a bit unsettling. We also hear about a Navy captain who burned his hands rescuing others. Clark says that man is already back from the hospital and wants to be put to work again, helping at the Pentagon.
4:12 PM: Rumors have been spreading that the U.S. military brought down the hijacked plane in Pennsylvania. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley says, “That didn’t happen. I cannot explain to you the cause of the crash of the airplane near Pittsburgh, but it was not engagement by a U.S. fighter aircraft.”
The Pentagon now confirms all the Joint Chiefs are accounted for.
4:54 PM: The second Urban Search and Rescue Team arrives. This one is from Montgomery County, Maryland.
5:04 PM: I see International Association of Firefighters General President, Harold Schaitberger and his press person, George Burke arrive at the Citgo. I grab Harold for a live interview. Harold has been in close touch with his people in New York. We learn for the first time that more than 200 New York firefighters probably perished when the towers collapsed. He calls firefighters “our domestic soldiers”. Schaitberger says the civilian death toll will be in the thousands. Off camera he lets me know that much of FDNY’s command staff was lost, including the Chief of the Department and the head of Special Operations.
5:36 PM: Harold Schaitberger joins me again with the story of two Ft. Meyer firefighters who were at the Pentagon when the crash occurred. They were standing near the fire truck we saw burning this morning. Both men were knocked down and injured by the force of the crash. They helped rescue a group of people through some of the office windows, before the firefighters themselves were hospitalized.
6:42 PM: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield briefs the press. For the first time since the crash, the press conference is held inside the Pentagon. I watch it from our van. Pushed for a body count, Rumsfeld says, “It will not be a few”. The Pentagon “will be in business tomorrow”.
8:45 PM: New information has been slow in coming, but marching up Columbia Pike with the television lights reflecting off his orange vest is a member of Montgomery County’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team. Captain Scott Graham gives us the first solid information about the fire and rescue efforts. Scott becomes a lifeline for information in the days to come.
Despite the large fire still burning, Graham says the USAR team members are always optimistic about finding people alive. He says, “We have to look at it as a rescue effort for us. We have to look at it as a very unstable building. And our job, pretty much, is to take the name of the Pentagon off the outside of it and go in and rescue the people that are in there”.
9:52 PM: Another familiar face shows up at the Citgo. Ed Plaugher is the fire chief of Arlington County. The Pentagon is in Arlington County, Virginia and Chief Plaugher is the man in charge of the fire and rescue operations. None of the other reporters nearby seem to know who Plaugher is, or if they do, they don’t care. Ed joins me live at 10:00 PM with the first solid news about the loss of life at the Pentagon. There are no figures as of yet, but the Pentagon has given him a range to work with. Plaugher says it is believed that anywhere from 100 to 800 people work in the area where the impact occurred. While that is fairly large range, it lets us know that the death toll will likely be in the hundreds at the Pentagon, as compared to the thousands presumed dead in New York. Plaugher’s guess is, when it is over, the number at the Pentagon will be in the low hundreds.
Plaugher later receives some heat when his statements are taken out of context. Some news reports claim Plaugher estimated the death toll at 800. Days later we learn that 125 were killed on the ground and 64 perished aboard Flight 77.
On another topic Chief Plaugher says, “To be honest with you, we always were afraid of the Pentagon as being a target, but never in our wildest dreams to this extent. I am still in disbelief.”
11:03 PM: Fire has broken through in at least four places along the Pentagon roof. Chief Plaugher says aggressive interior firefighting operations will cease until daylight. But, crews overnight, will continue to pour in water from the outside to keep the fire from spreading further.
I relay a phone conversation with Scott Graham a few minutes before our 11:00 PM newscast. Scott and most of the USAR team members from Montgomery and Fairfax Counties worked very closely with Deputy Chief Ray Downey from the Fire Department of New York. Downey, commander of FDNY’s Special Operations, is unaccounted for after the towers collapsed. Scott says Downey commanded all the USAR teams in Oklahoma City after the bombing there. He says Downey wrote the book on urban search and rescue. Skills Downey taught will be utilized in New York and Arlington by hundreds of rescuers in the difficult days to come. His voice cracking, Scott tells me, “We lost a damn good man”.
We lost a lot of good men and women today.
October 27, 2001
11:15 PM: As I am looking back at September 11th, I have just spent a week covering the deaths of two Washington, D.C. postal workers, from inhalation anthrax. Others are hospitalized because of anthrax that was sent through the U.S. Mail. No one knows how this story will play out.
There is a lot of uncertainty since September 11th. Our war efforts, our security in public places, our ability to travel safely by air, our economic future. Like all parents, Hillary and I worry over what this will mean for our young son.
This much I’m sure of. Through the thick smoke hanging over New York and Washington, it became clear that some remarkable people walk among us.
Some are just ordinary citizens who put other people’s lives ahead of their own. Staying behind, trying to make sure everyone gets out.
Others are paid to protect us. But I don’t think anyone believes for a moment that a police officer, paramedic or firefighter’s modest salary is enough to encourage someone to walk into the places that these men and women did on September 11th. It takes much more than money. It takes heart, and courage, and a belief you can make a difference.
I know firefighters the best. Six years in a busy volunteer company during my youth, and almost 30 years making the fire service my beat as a reporter, have given me some perspective.
In many big cities, including our Nation’s Capital, the fire departments have long taken a back seat when it comes to funding. Citizens who can tell you how many times the police patrol car comes down their block, or how many officers are walking the beat, have no idea how many firefighters are on duty in the neighborhood fire station. Political leaders know this to be true and through the years have made drastic cuts in fire protection, often without protest from the public.
Through the years, I have reported many stories where citizens and firefighters have died because of these cuts. Just last week an understaffed ladder company became an issue in Houston, Texas, after a fire captain died in a high-rise apartment building fire.
Firefighters are can-do people. Their skills at making things work under adversity often hides from the public the shortcomings in their staffing, equipment and facilities.
Some of the good that has come from the sacrifices made by the 343 members of FDNY who died on September 11th, is the recognition, by the public, of what firefighters really do.
A recent trip to Arlington County Fire Station #2 brought this home. The firehouse is covered with cards and letters from all over the world. Many are from school children, with drawings of the firefighters in action at the Pentagon and World Trade Center. All say thanks.
Veterans of more than 20 years in the fire service are astounded by the reaction these days as they drive through local streets. People stop and wave. When the firefighters walk into a building in uniform, they are applauded.
On October 7th, I was at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Just two hours before military action in Afghanistan began, President Bush told the stories of some of the 99 domestic soldiers who died in the line of duty in the United States last year. I watched as spouses and children received a flag and a red rose, and heard a bell toll in honor of their loved one, our hero.
I have forced myself on most days since September 11th to read the New York Post, Daily News and Times and the accounts of the daily funerals of New York firefighters. It is difficult to read about the pain their wives and children are going through. It is the least, though, that we can do. It is important to remember this unbelievable sacrifice.
My hope is that people all over the United States are paying very close attention to these same stories of heroism. My hope is that they don’t forget these stories when someone is trying to save a little money and close down their local firehouse.
Right now when Sam sees a fire truck he says, “Evan”. “Revvin’ Evan” is the animated fire engine on that “Jay Jay the Jet Plane” cartoon show he loves. When Sam is old enough, I will make sure he knows a lot more about firefighters. I will make sure Sam understands exactly who those people were climbing up the clogged, smoke filled, stairways, as he sat in his high chair, watching the first pictures transmitted from New York, at 8:52 AM, on September 11th, 2001.
A six-alarm fire on Labor Day 2013 brought firefighters throughout Northern Virginia and Prince George’s County, Maryland to the 800 block of South Pickett Street in Alexandria. It also forced STATter911.com off his fat butt to drive the 15 minutes to capture the video above. The fire was impacted by a water main break a block away earlier in the day. Toward the end of the video you will see the large amount of hose on the ground on the west side of the fire as part of the relay to bring in water from other mains.
The warehouse fire was reported at about noon on Monday and firefighters contained it by about 4 p.m.
South Van Dorn Street at Edsall Road was closed as firefighters extinguish the blaze.
Chief Fire Marshal Robert Rodriguez with the Alexandria Fire Department says no injuries have been reported.
The fire is about a block away from a water main break at the intersection of South Pickett and South Van Dorn streets. Rodriguez says the water main break is giving firefighters some trouble, but they are working around it.
The Morningside VFD is now telling its side of the fight the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Chief Marc Bashoor over staffing and providing ambulance service:
The Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. (MVFD) has received an unlawful mandate from Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department (PGFD) Chief Marc Bashoor to house a PGFD owned and operated ambulance at its Fire Station. This comes as a result of a recent collective bargaining agreement signed between the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and the Professional Firefighters and Paramedic Union, Local 1619, which requires the county to up staff volunteer fire stations with additional unnecessary salaried employees.
Over the past 10 months, the volunteers of the MVFD have voiced their concerns about the waste of county taxpayers money and resources at fire stations with adequate volunteer staffing, while other fire stations requests for staffing go unfulfilled. The current staffing model that has been in place at the MVFD since the PGFD’s Ambulance arrived in 2006 has resulted in the savings of millions of dollars to county taxpayers. As a founding principle of MVFD, volunteers are here to provide services free to the community. Unfortunately, the new union collective bargaining agreement mandate any station with 2 salaried county employees be increased to 4 salaried county employees, or have none.
The Morningside VFD’s position is based on the following facts:
1.) MVFD was chartered in 1944 to provide fire suppression services to the community of Morningside and adjacent communities.
2.) The MVFD does not currently, or has ever owned and operated an Ambulance. However, MVFD has and will continue to provide first response emergency medical services.
3.) In 2006, while operating in good faith, the MVFD partnered with the PGFD to allow the PGFD to house a PGFD Owned and Operated Ambulance at the MVFD Fire Station.
4.) A Station Policy that affirms the agreement and was written by a County Fire Department Official, dated May 13, 2006 states that “It should neither be assumed nor expected that MVFD members will participate in the operation of Ambulance 279. The responsibility lies solely on the career shift personnel assigned, detailed or working at Fire Station 27”.
5.) Prince Georges County entered into a new agreement with the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Union, Local 1619, without consulting the stakeholders that would be directly affected by this unilateral change. This new agreement explicitly prohibits the current staffing model that has been successfully utilized at the MVFD Fire Station.
6.) The MVFD never requested or mandated the PGFD Ambulance housed at its Fire Station be placed out of service. The MVFD has only requested the PGFD Ambulance be redeployed to an adjacent station, where the unit responds to the majority of its calls. This request would allow the PGFD to keep the unit in-service, without incurring the proposed unnecessary additional costs and salaried positions of compliance with the new agreement.
7.) Nearly 7 out of 10 emergencies responded to by the PGFD Ambulance housed at the MVFD Fire Station are outside of the MVFD’s Primary Response Area.
8.) PGFD is mandating Volunteer Fire Departments to staff County Owned Ambulances that they in turn bill taxpayers for.
9.) The MVFD will not staff a PGFD Owned Ambulance that they in turn bill for services rendered, it is against our founding principals as volunteers.
10.) Currently 70% of the funded County Salary Positions assigned to the MVFD Fire Station are vacant. Just in the month of July, the PGFD accrued over 1,000 hours of overtime to staff the funded positions at the MVFD Fire Station. This is only part of the 1.1million dollars the PGFD paid for over 21,000 hours of overtime to operationally staff the department during the month of July. This will only compound the Prince Georges County fiscal deficit in fiscal year 2014, which is already in excess of 152 million dollars.
11.) Conversely to the County’s rapidly escalating overtime cost, the MVFD has provided over 25,000 man-hours of staffing which equates to more than 1.7 million dollars in taxpayer’s savings so far this year.
12.) The MVFD has been actively seeking a resolution to this matter since November 21, 2012. We have been unable to reach an amicable agreement in these matters and feel that we have been stonewalled by County Officials.
The following is a press release from the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department :
The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department has been notified by one of it’s volunteer corporations that the basic life support transport unit (ambulance) will no longer be welcomed at their station, and will be placed out of service within the next week.
The Morningside Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Station 827, in a written notice from their lawyer, stated the ambulance at their station would need to be removed or redeployed by the County on August 19, 2013.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor sent a letter today to Morningside Volunteer Chief Michael White ordering him to keep the ambulance in service. This action came after attorneys representing the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department notified the County in a letter (entire letter below) dated August 13, 2013, that “after careful deliberations the membership of MVFD has voted and has decided to keep the date of August 19, 2013 at 0700 by which Ambulance 827 will no longer be authorized on it’s property and should be redeployed.” After reading the letter Fire Chief Bashoor said, “Their decision will compromise the safety of our citizens and residents, which I will not stand for it.”
This situation is a result of “staffing” brought about by a recent change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the County and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1619. This new agreement affects staffing at stations where only 2 career firefighter/medics are on duty. The Morningside Station currently has 4 career staff on duty from 7:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M., Monday through Friday. At all other times, 2 career firefighter/medics remain on duty throughout the 24-hour shift. The new CBA creates 2 options—either up staff the station with 4 career personnel around the clock, or have the 2 firefighters removed from the 24-hour shift. Removal of firefighters from the 24-hour shift will require volunteers to staff the apparatus during nights, weekends and holidays. There are 8 other stations affected by this agreement, with no other adverse actions being taken at this time.
The Morningside Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. has to date declined the 4-person crew around the clock, which means the 2-person crew at night, weekends and holidays would be eliminated, effective October 1, 2013 (date of the 3rd phase of staffing implementation). The Morningside Station would then be required to staff the ambulance and suppression units with volunteers. The volunteer corporation has advised that volunteers will not staff the ambulance at the Morningside station, and therefore the ambulance would be placed out of service and removed from the station on August 19, 2013.
Fire Chief Bashoor had members of his command staff meet with the leadership of the Morningside Station on several occasions, in an attempt to work through this situation. There has been no progress or change in Morningside’s stance. Fire Chief Bashoor has ordered the Volunteer Chief, Michael White, to leave the ambulance in service, allowing it to serve the community and be staffed by Volunteer and/or Career staffing.
In 2012, the Morningside ambulance responded to 3,627 calls for service. This is the 10th busiest basic life support transport unit in the county. The loss of this unit could create an estimated wait time of about 5 to 10 minutes for another transport unit to respond to the scene of an incident in the Morningside community.
Prince George’s County is the largest and busiest combination (paid, volunteer, civilian) Fire/EMS Departments in the Country. In 2012, the department responded on 135, 383 calls for service. Of that figure, nearly 80 percent were EMS-related.
There are 45 Fire/EMS Stations located throughout Prince George’s County. Only 2 of these stations operate without an EMS transport unit, and they are both all-volunteer stations. There are 5 all-volunteer stations that continue to staff and respond with ambulances. Most Fire/EMS stations have some form of combined career and volunteer staffing.
There will be consequences to any actions that attempt to place the ambulance out of service at Morningside. The station’s Volunteer Fire Chief has been notified of actions that will be taken if they move forward with plans to remove the ambulance. Actions being considered include, but not limited to, demotion of the volunteer chief and response of fire apparatus limited to areas where they are considered first due.
Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor will continue to work with county and Morningside leaders to resolve this matter. The goal is to prevent any adverse effect on the Morningside community and surrounding areas.
Regular readers know I try to avoid boring you with stories of my brief time as a firefighter and fire department dispatcher. But today is an exception. My friend John Harney sent a message out on Facebook this morning reminding us that on this day 35-years-ago two Prince George’s County Police officers, Rusty Claggett and Brian Swart, were gunned down in the police station where they worked.
I have had the unfortunate experience of being in the same building on two different occasions when police officers were shot and killed. One was on November 22, 1994 as I was covering a press conference in the roll call room at the DC Police Department’s headquarters. At the same time, around the corner on the same floor, my friend, Sgt. Hank Daly, and FBI Special Agents Martha Dixon and Michael Miller were shot and killed by a member of a drug gang.
Sixteen years earlier I was two floors above a Prince George’s County police station, working as a PGFD dispatcher, when Officers Claggett and Swart were shot. In 2008, on the 30th anniversary of their deaths, I wrote some of my recollections of that tragic morning. I have added a few thoughts and am sharing it with you again today.
Officer Albert Marshal Claggett IV (l) and Officer James Brian Swart.
On June 26, 1978, two police officers, Albert Marshal Claggett IV and James Brian Swart, were shot to death inside the Prince George’s County police station in Hyattsville, Maryland. They were killed by 15-year-old Terrence Johnson who had grabbed Officer Rusty Claggett’s gun in a small interrogation room.
The events of that morning are seared in my memory because I was asleep two floors above when the officers were shot. The police station was then in the basement of the County Services Building at 5012 Rhode Island Avenue. Prince George’s County Fire Communications was on the second floor.
Before you question why I was asleep, let me explain we were then working 10-hour days and 14-hour nights and had a bunk room. The department allowed half the shift to sleep during the overnight hours. A bell would wake us if we were needed on the dispatch floor.
The floor during much of the spring and summer of 1978 was downstairs and outside. We were working out of a former county bookmobile while our facility was being renovated.
Firefighter Jimmy Wilson, Captain Jim Mundy and I jumped up when we heard the bell ring at 2:43 AM. By the time we ran down to the bookmobile on the north side of the building, the rest of the crew told us we could go back to sleep. Our fellow dispatchers had thought there was a shooting downstairs in the police station, but they had just been given information it was actually in the Hyattsville City Police Station up the street. That information was wrong.
As Jimmy and I turned around and headed back up the outside steps, a woman came running down those same steps screaming and crying. She yelled, “He shot them”. Jimmy and I ran back into the first floor and down the interior stairwell to the basement.
Coming out of the stairwell door at the basement level, we were greeted by the sight of a police officer sprawled across the hallway, clearly wounded, and in cardiac arrest. I began mouth to mouth and Jimmy started compressions on Brian Swart as his fellow police officers stood over us.
As I recall from quick glances of the movement around me, Jim Mundy and Civilian Dispatcher Terry Lloyd were not far behind us. Later, Jim Mundy, who was one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked for, rightfully gave Jimmy and me hell for walking into that situation in just white t-shirts, blue pants and no identification. Mundy at least put on his uniform shirt.
Jim and Terry immediately went further into the police station and began working on Officer Claggett. Claggett was on the floor propped up against a wall and fading fast. Medic 1 was soon there with FF/PMs Bob Yatsuk and Richard Henderson. They split up, each taking over the care of one of the officers.
Much of the rest is a blur to me. Just a lot of images. One was a group of firefighters and cops lifting a stretcher up the basement stairs to the outside with Terry on top continuing compressions on Officer Swart.
The other was looking up to see a teenager stripped down to his shorts and handcuffed to the bench. He had a haunting, far off, glassy stare that I have never forgotten.
Two days later, Yatsuk and Henderson were kind enough to write some nice words about the help they received from “B” shift at the Bureau of Fire and Rescue Communications (click here). But to tell you the truth, we all felt pretty inadequate about our inability to change the outcome of a situation that happened so close to us.
Of all the controversies involving the Prince George’s County Police Department over many years, the Terrence Johnson case may have been the most controversial. Protests cropped up at the County Services Building and threats were received.
Because of those threats, an armed fire investigator was assigned to sit with us in the bookmobile. Plywood was added as a skirt around the bottom of the temporary dispatch center so no one could throw a firebomb underneath. Thankfully none of those threats materialized.
Terrence Johnson was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Officer Claggett and not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of Officer Swart. The bitter feelings lingered on both sides for decades. I never covered the case as a reporter even though developments in the story had been assigned to me at various times through the 1980s and 90s. I always begged off citing my involvement the morning of the shootings.
On February 27, 1997 I received a call from former Prince George’s County Police Chief Dave Mitchell who was then superintendent of the Maryland State Police. Dave, an old friend, had just learned that Terrence Johnson, who had been paroled two years earlier, shot and killed himself after police caught up with him following a bank robbery in Aberdeen, Maryland. That afternoon, for the first time during one of our newscasts, I shared my recollections of June 26, 1978.
That bookmobile was our dispatch center for a little more than three-months. Working in extremely tight quarters, we were put to the test by a number of major incidents. Just 11 days before the police officers were killed, Civilian Dispatcher Chip Norris and I were handling the overnight hours and had sent Engine 201 from the Marlboro Fire Department on a mutual aid call to adjacent Anne Arundel County. A short time later Maryland State Police called to tell us one of our fire trucks was overturned on Route 301. The crash killed Firefighter James M. O’Connor.
Today we remember Rusty Claggett and Brian Swart. While I worked with people who were quite close to them, I didn’t know either officer other than recognizing them from having passed them in the building a few times. But the memory of their deaths is one of those absolutely chilling moments that will always be with me.
Maryland’s Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department is holding a briefing for the press this afternoon on the release of its Safety Investigative Team Report into the February 24, 2012 fire in Riverdale Heights that injured seven firefighters. The executive summary is below and you can click here to read the entire 300 page report. News coverage of today’s event will be added when available.
On February 24, 2012, at 2111 hours, Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department personnel responded to a structure fire at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale Heights, Maryland. Upon arrival, Fire/EMS Department personnel observed flames extending out of a basement window, pressurized smoke on the first floor, and high winds impacting the rear of the structure.
Shortly after arriving, firefighters forced the front door of the structure, which immediately changed the fire’s flow path and dynamics by adding a ventilation opening above the fire. This situation was intensified by weather conditions (high winds impacting the rear of the structure). Firefighters entered the structure through the front door, placing themselves above the basement fire and in its outflow path. This exposed them to high velocity and high temperature gases.
Two (2) firefighters were trapped on the first floor without the protection of a hose line, when the front door shut behind them and changed the fire’s flow path. The hot smoke and gases that were coming up the interior stairwell and escaping out the front door were now contained to the first floor. This dropped the smoke layer to the floor and temporarily increased the temperatures from floor to ceiling in the front room where the firefighters were trapped. One (1) firefighter was able to self-rescue through a front window and the other firefighter was removed through the front door by other firefighters. The fire in the basement was burning unchecked, until an engine company entered the basement from the rear of the structure and began putting water on the fire.
Ultimately seven (7) firefighters were injured; the two (2) firefighters that were trapped on the first floor sustained the most significant injuries. There have been several documented incidents in the County, as well as nationally, with similar concerning tactics and operations, that have injured or killed firefighters, such as DCFD Cherry Road LODD, SFFD Diamond Heights LODD, and BCoFD Dowling Circle LODD.
This makes the recommendations of this report vitally important.
The Safety Investigation Team (Team) visited the scene, reviewed statements, conducted interviews, and gathered data during the course of the investigation. The Team identified many factors that contributed to the outcome and injuries to the firefighters. While the report details all of these factors, the Team identified the following as most critical:
An effective size-up was not completed, including a 360-degree survey walk around the building, as well as evaluating environmental conditions.
No incident action plan was communicated, and firefighters were dangerously positioned above and in the outflow path of the fire.
A firefighter emergency occurred, but no MAYDAY was effectively communicated.
Multiple existing policies and procedures were not followed.
Training deficiencies were identified at all levels.
Command, control, and accountability deficiencies were identified at all levels.
While the Team analyzed the entire incident, the focus of this investigation was to determine what happened, what factors led to the injuries and, most importantly, what recommendations should be made so future incidents do not have similar or worse outcomes. During the course of the investigation, the Team prepared many recommendations intended to assist the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department in improving the operational safety of personnel, fireground operations, command and control of fire incidents, as well as training. These recommendations, which are listed throughout the report, are separated into categories termed: immediate (red – Life safety & firefighter survival), short term (yellow – Relatively easy to implement), and long term (green – May require significant planning including fiscal impacts). A complete list of all recommendations is provided in Appendix 1.
Reading the latest news accounts, it appears today’s regularly scheduled press conference should include some questioning of Mayor Vince Gray about the DC Fire & EMS Department. On Monday, with no comments coming from Chief Ellerbe or Deputy Mayor Paul Quander, a spokesman for Mayor Gray said the previous administration “neglected” the fire department leaving the city “unprepared”. It is expected, according to news accounts, that there will be a release of findings at today’s event of why no ambulance was available to take a seriously injured DC police officer to the hospital two weeks ago. Details of that investigation are already out.
FOX 5 has obtained the initial findings of an investigation into the March 5th ambulance response for an injured D.C. police officer.
Sean Hickman waited at least 20 minutes for an ambulance that eventually came from Prince George’s County. The Sixth District officer was on a scooter when police say he was intentionally run over by a man in car.
Sources familiar with the investigation say two ambulances should have been able to respond, but did not for reasons still unclear, and a third may have gone out of service by mistake.
The findings are expected to be made public Wednesday morning at the mayor’s bi-weekly news conference.
Sources familiar with the investigation say when the initial call for service went out at 6:36 p.m. that night, one ambulance was in quarters east of the river and near the scene of the accident, but did not respond even though the crew was told to monitor the radio.
Sources say Medic 27 went out of service for equipment trouble and parked at a fire house on Minnesota Avenue in Northeast D.C. when the call for the hit-and-run came in.
The crew went out of service at 6:27 p.m. after reporting problems with two batteries in a piece of equipment on the rig.
At 6:36 p.m., an engine with a paramedic was dispatched to the hit-and-run at 46th and A Streets in Southeast while communications searched for an ambulance.
Sources say a second crew, Medic 19, was at Howard University Hospital and asked for a delayed response back to quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and went out of service at 6:34 p.m. after being also told to monitor the radio.
The call for the hit-and-run came in two minutes later.
A third crew, Ambulance 15, went out of service for 53 minutes from 6:26 p.m. to 7:19 p.m.
According to the crews’ own account, it was a mistake. They entered the wrong information into the rig’s computer and put themselves out of service.
20 minutes after the initial call for help went out, Ambulance 15 was still parked at a fire station on New Jersey Avenue, NW.
“It was a computer error,” says Union President Ed Smith. “They lost them in the system. Once the employees realized there was a problem, they self-reported the problem and then they were dispatched on another run.”
Smith says the firefighters realized their mistake when they heard a call for service over the radio that should have been given to them.
“They heard a run coming out that they thought they would be responsible to take and that’s when they realized there was a problem and self-reported to dispatch,” said Smith.
Sources familiar with the report say 39 ambulances were on duty that night, with nine out of service at the time of the call for the injured officer.
The investigation has discovered six of those transports were legitimately out of service with mechanical problems.
On March 5th a D.C. Police Officer—a victim of a hit-and-run—laid in the street for nearly 20 minutes with a broken leg before he was finally taken to the hospital by an ambulance from Prince George’s County.
In a report set to be released later Tuesday, sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC7 they found that 39 ambulances scheduled on duty that night, nine of those were listed as “out of service.”
Of those nine ambulances, six had valid mechanical issues, but three were improperly taken out of service.
One crew did not log back into the system properly and were off the dispatcher’s radar. But, the other two were considered in “delayed relief mode,” and had been told to “monitor the radio,” and should an important call come, they were told to respond.
ABC7 spoke with D.C. EMS union officials, who say, the two crews in question never heard a call for a dispatch.
Regardless of what led to the confusion, district residents told ABC7 that something needs to change.
The Prince George’s County Police Department’s Collision Analysis Reconstruction Unit is investigating this afternoon’s single car fatal crash in Landover. A 21-year veteran of the department was taken to the hospital with burns to his face and hands after trying to free the driver from the burning wreckage.
Preliminarily, the investigation reveals a Mercury Mountaineer was traveling westbound on MLK Highway near Whitfield Chapel Road at about 12:40 pm when it hit a guard rail just before the overpass to the Beltway. The SUV careened sideways down the roadway until it came to rest on its driver’s side on the overpass. The SUV caught fire with the driver trapped inside. Three Prince George’s County police officers quickly arrived on the scene and tried to rescue the driver. A 21-year veteran with the Intelligence Unit suffered burns to his face and hands while trying to help. The officer was taken to the hospital for treatment. A 23-year veteran patrol officer assigned to District III attempted to break the windshield but the intense flames forced him back. Despite the help of these two officers and a third patrol officer assigned to the PGPD Special Operations Division, as well as an unidentified civilian, the driver died in the fiery crash. He is identified as 70-year-old Rodwell McNeill, Jr. of the 7900 block of Dellwood Avenue in Glenarden.
A 70-year-old man was killed Monday in a single-vehicle crash in Prince George’s County, and a 21-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Police Department was hurt trying to save him.
The crash occurred at Martin Luther King Highway and Whitfield Chapel Road a little after 1 p.m. The vehicle involved in the crash caught fire, and its occupant, 70-year-old Rodwell McNeill Jr. of Glenarden, was trapped inside.
Prince George’s Police Corporal Ron Owens saw the smoke and responded. Running to help, he was the third officer to arrive on scene.
“I saw three people. It was two officers, one was a civilian, trying to break the windshield out and actually pull the guy out of the car,” Owens said.
Owens attempted to join the other officers in saving the trapped victim inside the SUV. But he and the other officers can’t save him.
“We had to back off. The one officer he had burns on his arms, his hands was all cut up, he had burns to his face just from the heat,” Owens recalled.
In video from Owens’ cruiser camera, you can see a plain clothes police lieutenant clearly in pain. Another officer poured water onto his burned hands.
The lieutenant suffered burns to his face and hands trying to save the victim.
“I’m grateful to them. I know they tried. I know they tried,” said Polly Young, McNeill’s mother-in-law. “They are heroes.”
She says her family knows the officers did all they could.
“He was a good man, he was a Christian man, he was a good husband,” Young said of her son-in-law.
Video above and immediately below by Billy McNeel (Billy McNeel) from this evening’s wind whipped building fire in Laurel, Maryland. Additional video below by Laurel PIO Pete Piringer (the headline of this story really should have been that Pete knows how to take video and upload to YouTube).
The fire was at the Laurel Oil and Heating Company. Just before 9:00 PM PGFD Chief Marc Bashoor tweeted the following:
On scene Laurel Fuel Co fire – no hazmat ACTUALLY involved. Under control
Firefighters battled a fire at the Laurel Fuel Oil and Heating Company on Wednesday evening that caused significant damage to the business. At around 7:00 pm firefighter/medics were alerted to a building fire at 101 Main Street. Fire/EMS units arrived on the scene to find a 2-story building with offices on the first floor and an apartment on the second floor with an attached 100 X 75 garage with fire showing from the garage.
A “Task Force” was sounded bringing additional firefighters, support vehicles and incident commanders to the scene.
It was quickly determined that the garage housed three home heating oil delivery trucks. First arriving firefighters attempted an initial interior attack on the fire and then evacuated the building to regroup. The bulk of the fire was knocked down from the exterior using master stream devices before returning to an interior attack. It required about 45 minutes for 75 firefighters to knock down the fire. Firefighter/Medics from Prince George’s, Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel Counties operated on the fire ground.
One firefighter sustained a shoulder injury while battling the fire. He was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
The cause of the fire is under investigation with a preliminary fire loss estimated at $750,000 for the building and it’s contents.
A large fire broke out in a garage at a Laurel oil and heating business Wednesday evening, forcing authorities to shut down parts of Route 1 in the city, officials said.
Firefighters responded to the Laurel Oil and Heating Company in the 100 block of Main Street about 7 p.m. and found heavy fire in a garage that houses fuel trucks, said Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County fire department spokesman.
The business was closed at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported.
From City of Laurel spokesman Pete Piringer (description with Pete’s YouTube clips above & below):
Just before 7p on Wednesday, March 6, units from the Laurel VFD and Laurel Rescue Squad were dispatched to 101 Main St for a building fire. Approx 100 firefighters from PG, Montgomery, Anne Arundel & Howard Counties responded. There were no injuries. The fire involved a garage area attached to the Laurel Heating & Fuel Company. Damage is significant.
A MPD officer struck in a hit-and-run had to wait nearly 20 minutes before an ambulance arrived on scene.
A vehicle struck the MPD officer just after 6:30 p.m. at 46th and A streets SE. When the call was dispatched, D.C. said they had no available EMS units to send.
An ambulance from Prince George’s County was dispatched, arriving to the scene at 6:52 p.m. Nearly an hour passed between the time the officer was struck and his arrival time at MedStar Washington Hospital.
According to police, the suspect fled the scene, leaving the vehicle behind.
The officer was conscious and breathing upon transport to an area hospital.
(PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark) Brady said the Prince George’s ambulance, joined by a D.C. paramedic, took the injured officer to a trauma center in Washington for treatment.
Spokesmen for Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
But Kristopher Baumann, the leader of the District’s police union, slammed the city’s response and blamed Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe for the episode.
“At this point, Chief Ellerbe has pushed the fire department into a place where it cannot perform even the most basic services. From everything we’ve seen, it has been one misstep, one act of mismanagement after another,” Baumann said. “We are now in a situation where a police officer is laying out in the cold, out in the street, because the fire chief can’t provide ambulances.”
Edward Smith, the president of the firefighters union, said he hoped the incident would spur the city to increase the number of available ambulances.
“We hope there are more units available in the future for timely transport,” he said. “It’s a matter of public safety.”
Lt Ryan Emmons is on the move!! Headed home to finish the call he left out on the morning of 1-30-13. Ryan is headed to station 28 to complete his run. Ryan will than be headed home to rest as finish his recovery.
West Lanham Hills VFD has set up an account for Lt Ryan Emmons. This account will only contain contributions to benefit Ryan Emmons. Anyone interested in making a contribution should make checks payable to: WLHVFD c/o Ryan Emmons, contributions should be mailed to: WLHVFD, PO Box 1348, Lanham, Md. 20703 or you can pay via Paypal just click the link below:
Let’s take a trip back almost 22-years to June 1, 1991 and this video (above) from DaLoveMaster. It’s a house fire on Dunnington Road in Calverton, Maryland showing PGFD in action with mutual aid from Montgomery County.
And from the same year, the video below was taken at a three-alarm apartment fire at 1016 Palmer Road in Oxon Hill. A lot of old friends in this video. I am glad someone got some good shots of this fire, because PGPD tried to keep the news media at 210 and Palmer (almost a half mile away) until the fire was out and it was safe. We were told it might explode. But who’s bitter after all these years? Enjoy.
Above is the dispatch and fireground audio from the house fire around 4:00 this morning on Leslie Avenue in Glenarden, MD. Four people were pulled out in cardiac arrest. A man and two children died. A third child is in critical condition. A woman and another child had escaped before firefighters arrived. Click here for our earlier coverage.
Images above from 92nd Avenue by PGFD Chief Marc Bashoor.
While reporters and department officials gathered at the scene on Leslie Avenue this morning there was another house fire about a mile and a half away in the 3900 block of 92nd Avenue in Springdale. Pictures and video on this post are from that fire. Here is info from PGFD PIO Mark Brady:
At about 9:30 am, Thursday, February 21, a Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Police Officer happened upon a working house fire in the 3900 block of 92nd Avenue in Springdale.
Firefighters arrived to find a 1-story single family home, with exposure building on the rear side, Firefighters found fire showing and heavy smoke coming from the rear of the structure. Neighbors reported that a disabled occupant could still be in the house and firefighters were in the process of a search of the homes interior when conditions deteriorated rapidly and all personnel were evacuated from the structure. After a bulk of the fire was knocked down from the exterior, firefighters re-entered the structure to complete their primary search. The occupant was soon located safe and out side of the home.
Firefighters completed extinguishment in the primary house and the exposure with 45 minutes.
No injuries have been reported at this point and the cause of the fire is under investigation. The structure will be declared “unsafe” and the occupants displaced.
Leslie Av house fire. Sad day – adult male & 2 kids pronounced at hospitals, pulse restored 1 child-critical, 1 child, 1 adult female stable
Picture from PGFD Chief Marc Bashoor.
Press release from PGFD’s Mark Brady:
Firefighters were alerted to a house fire with occupants trapped at around 4:00 am, Thursday, February 21.
Volunteer Firefighters from Kentland Station 833 were the first to arrive at a brick 1-story with basement single family home in the 8600 block of Leslie Avenue in Glenarden. Conditions on arrival included fire and heavy smoke showing. Kentland and other arriving firefighters initiated a search of the burning home and removed 1 adult male and 3 children: 5, 8 and 10 year old females. All four were not breathing and had no pulse. Firefighters started CPR on the victims and all were quickly transported by paramedics to area hospitals. 2 other occupants, an adult female and an 8 year old child, had escaped the fire before the fire departments arrival and sustained less serious injuries and have been transported to area hospitals.
The fire was knocked down within 30 minutes. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.
The adult male and two of the children were pronounced deceased a short time after arriving at the hospital despite the very best efforts of everyone involved. One child had a pulse restored and is in the process of being transported to a hospital that specializes in the care and treatment of children.
As additional information becomes available this site will be updated.
Below are details from Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Chief Marc Bashoor on a staff realignment to take place on March 4 that would take career firefighters from four firehouses and use them to increase staffing at other stations in the county. The memo was posted on the PGFD PIO blog.
A month ago, leadership from Branchville VFD (PGFD Station 811) held a press conference critical of the plan that would make Branchville and three other stations staffed soley by volunteer firefighters 24/7. You can find that coverage here, here and here.
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MARYLAND
February 1, 2013
TO: All Sworn, Civilian, and Volunteer Personnel
FROM: Marc S. Bashoor, Fire Chief
RE: Fire/EMS Department Reorganization
In an effort to achieve essential improvements in our utilization of uniformed staffing resources and maintain fiscal prudence, I have tasked staff to conduct a multi-faceted evaluation of the Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department’s overall operations and personnel deployment. The first phase of this assessment, which was recently completed, includes an evaluation of current career staffing patterns for all facilities. The primary objective was to identify all patterns of redundancy in service, with the inclusion of adequate volunteer participation, and essential compliance with all operational standards.
As part of this phase, the staff used available empirical data and conducted a Graphical Information Systems (GIS) mapping analysis of the seven-minute response capabilities for each facility based on minimum response recommendations contained in the Maryland National- Capital Park and Planning Commission Public Safety Master Plan (PSMP) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1710 Standard. To evaluate service delivery, these GIS studies observed population density, response times and call volume for each response area.
After careful consideration and review of all of the components of the first study phase, the following global career staff reassignments will be implemented effective Monday, March 4, 2013;
ALL CAREER STAFF REDEPLOYED
- Seat Pleasant Station 808
- Branchville Station 811
- Boulevard Heights Station 817
- West Lanham Hills Station 828
UP-STAFFED DEDICATED SUPPRESSION & EMS UNIT
- Hyattsville Station 801 (6 personnel, 0700-1500)
- Capitol Heights Station 805 (5 personnel, 24 hours a day)
- Bowie-Northview Station 816 (6 personnel, 24 hours a day)
- Oxon Hill (Livingston Road) Station 821 (6 personnel, 24 hours a day)
- Chapel Oaks Station 838 (6 personnel, 24 hours a day)
- West Lanham Hills (Good Luck Road) Station 848 (6 personnel, 0700-1500)
- Laurel Rescue Station 849 (6 personnel, 0700-1500)
NEW STAFFED CALL VOLUME TRANSPORT UNITS
- Allentown Road Ambulance 832
- Chapel Oaks Ambulance 838
The next phase of our reorganizational assessment will continue to examine locations where two-person shift staffing remains. The Department will be working with the Volunteer Chiefs and examining each of these work sites to determine the possible coverage based on meeting specific service demand. In this phase we will also conduct a thorough examination of all aspects of our Department operations, focusing on our specialty and technical assets and our training paradigm.
The redeployments and expanded staffing assignments should be considered long-term strategic decisions, balancing service provision to more residents than our current staffing model. The Fire/EMS Department will continue to support the on-going volunteer recruitment, station management and support functions at all volunteer stations. Deployment of all of the Department’s personnel in the future will be evaluated based on the aforementioned merits as well as, but not limited to, the ability to sustain the additional staffing levels.
Affected Volunteer Chiefs were contacted today. Affected career personnel will be provided direction in the coming weeks.
I fully expect all personnel will continue to perform professionally and provide transitional assistance as necessary.
2013.02.01 ASCVP Memo #13-08 – Fire/EMS Department Reorganization.doc
Tonight the West Lanham fire chief is disputing the official account of what caused a crash that injured seven people in a Beltway crash, including four firefighters.
One of those men underwent hours of surgery to have his arm re-attached after the rollover crash.
Chief John Alter said he can’t stand by and watch his guys take the blame for something he says they didn’t do. One of their own was critically hurt in this accident but there is another black cloud hanging over this station.
West Lanham Hills VFD Chief John Alter.
Volunteer firefighter. Lt. Ryan Emmons, 30, continues to recover after his arm was severed early Wednesday morning during an accident involving his fire engine and a tractor trailer.
Instead of complete relief, Alter said there is great angst.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Prince George’s County Police released their preliminary findings on the accident which had the Beltway closed for hours, saying the fire engine was just leaving an accident call when it tried to make a U-turn at an emergency vehicle access point.
West Lanham Hills VFD Lt. Ryan Emmons.
Police say the engine collided with a tractor trailer, which sources say had the right of way. The two trucks slid into the median and hit a Jeep SUV. In all, seven people were hurt, including four firefighters.
Three of those firefighters have been released from an area hospital, County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said.
“We just believe that they were attempting to make a U-turn on 495,” says Lt. William Alexander, a PGPD spokesperson.
“Were they making a U-turn?” asks Alter. “No ma’am, they were not. They were slowing down for a call.”
Alter says his four firefighters were driving on the inner loop of the Beltway and just as they arrived at an accident call, which was on the opposite side, dispatch told them they weren’t needed.
Alter says his guys who had slowed down were about to continue forward on the inner loop and head home when he said the driver looked behind him and noticed a tractor trailer bearing down on him. He says the driver pushed on the gas to speed up.
“I credit the driver of the apparatus for saving my fellow firefighters’ lives,” Alter says.
Alter says the semi slammed right into the back of the engine. When showed a photo ABC7 obtained, the chief explained if the engine had been making a U-turn there would be damage on the driver’s side.
Alter says the engine driver, an Afghanistan war vet, was first to reach Emmons and he wrapped eEmmons’ arm in a tourniquet and stopped the bleeding.
Alter says the engine driver didn’t put lives at risk, he saved lives.
“We have a long recovery to go,” Alter says. “I can’t wait for this erroneous report to go away, so we can get back to serving the community.”
Thirty-year-old West Lanham Hills VFD Lt. Ryan Emmons, who had his arm reattached below the elbow after the fire engine he was in overturned early Wednesday morning, went through more surgery Wednesday evening. Here are details from an update at 10:30 PM on the West Lanham Hills VFD Facebook page:
I know it’s late and this will be the last update of the night. A second surgery was needed a little bit ago (as many more will come). Ryan just came out of surgery and is being kept in the surgical ICU. The Dr. said the next 72 hours are the most critical. They had to take some veins from his legs to rebuild his veins in his arm. Keep the prayers coming everyone.
Twitter is lit up with “Lt Ryan Emmons #WLHVFD” so if you have it lets try to get it trending in this area so our prayers are heard.
Lt. Ryan Emmons.
A PGFD press release identifies the other three West Lanham Hill VFD members treated and released after the collision as Lieutenant Jack Lesqure, age 24, Lieutenant Michael Simmons, age 29, and Firefighter George Hirsch, age 22. According to news reports Ryan Emmons was just promoted to lieutenant over the weekend.
In a briefing Wednesday afternoon, Prince George’s County Police say the crash occurred when Engine 828 was leaving the scene of a collision near Route 50 and used an emergency crossover. Police Lieutenant William Alexander says the pumper did not use lights and siren as it made the u-turn and was struck in the rear by a tractor trailer. Lt. Alexander told WRC-TV/NBC4 that, “Preliminarily we believe the tractor trailer was the favored driver”. (NOTE: The Washington Post, below, reports a different scenario of the crash from Chief Alter).
Dr. James Higgins, the head of the hand institute at MedStar Union Memorial and his team were ready and waiting for Emmons after they got word he was headed their way.
Dr. Higgins was one of the 16 surgeons who performed the first double-hand transplant in our area on Brendan Marrocco, an Iraq vet who lost all four limbs.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Prince George’s County Police released their preliminary findings on the accident which had the Beltway closed for hours, saying the fire engine was just leaving an accident call when it tried to make a U-turn at an emergency vehicle access point. Police say the engine collided with a tractor trailer, which sources say had the right of way. The two trucks slid into the median and hit a Jeep SUV. In all, seven people were hurt, including four firefighters.
Doctors credit Emmons’ colleagues for saving his arm by wrapping it on ice. So far his surgery was a success, but the coming days are critical.
Lt. William Alexander, a police spokesman, said investigators believe that the firetruck was leaving the scene of a minor crash on the inner loop of the Beltway and was “intending to make a U-turn” through an emergency vehicle turnaround when the tractor-trailer hit it from behind. He said investigators initially believed that the tractor-trailer was the “favored vehicle,” although police had not yet assigned fault in the collision.
“It’s a very complex investigation,” Alexander said.
In legal cases in Maryland, “favored vehicle” typically refers to the one with the right-of-way.
Alter said he thought the firetruck was pulling up to the scene of the minor crash — slowing to about 10 or 15 mph with its emergency lights still on — when it was hit. He said the firetruck’s driver “saw the tractor-trailer coming and tried to put the fuel back on” but that his efforts were in vain.
The tractor-trailer pushed the firetruck nearly 100 feet along the Jersey barrier dividing the Beltway’s inner and outer loops, then crossed over the wall itself, Alter said.
Four Prince George’s County Firefighters have been taken to a hospital after a violent crash on the Capital Beltway in Landover early Wednesday morning.
According to Maryland State Police, the collision involving a fire truck, a tractor trailer, and a Jeep occurred just before 3:00 a.m. on the Inner Loop of I-495 just south of Route 50. MSP confirms the crash has sent a total of 7 patients to local hospitals by ambulance and medevac.
Chief Alicia Francis, spokeswoman for Prince George’s County Fire and Rescue, is on the scene and confirms four of the seven patients are firefighters. One of them has been taken to Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, which specializes in severe limb injuries. He is said to be in critical condition. The conditions of the other three firefighters at PG Trauma have been upgraded and may be released soon, says the chief.
According to Chief Francis, the driver of the tractor trailer and two victims from the Jeep were taken to Medstar. Right now the severity of the civilians’ injuries are unknown.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor is also at the scene and tells WUSA*9 reporter Delia Goncalves the crash occurred when Fire Engine 828 out of West Lanham Hills was heading back home after responding to a call. Chief Bashoor says it appears the engine was struck by the tractor trailer from behind, sending both vehicles into the concrete barrier separating the Inner and Outer Loops. This initial collision sent wreckage and concrete debris into the northbound lanes of the Beltway, where a Jeep was also caught up in the crash.
Video above by PGFD PIO Mark Brady of this afternoon’s two-alarm apartment fire in Greenbelt, Maryland that included a brief mayday. The firefighter operating on the roof who called the mayday was not injured. In the ScanMD.org audio the mayday is at 12:20 and and is resolved almost immediately. At 22:54 command pulls crews out of 9133 Edmonston Terrace for a brief time to operate master streams.
Firefighters battled a fire in a Greenbelt apartment building that required about 30 minutes to extinguish. At around 4:30 pm, Wednesday, December 26, firefighters were alerted to a fire at 9133 Edmonston Terrace in Greenbelt. This is a 2-story front/3-story in the rear garden style apartment building.
Upon arrival, firefighters found fire showing from the top two floors on the front side of the building. A civilian was rescued from his top floor apartment balcony in the rear of the building after retreating there for shelter.
A 2nd Alarm was sounded bringing about 50 firefighter/Medics to the scene.
Photo by Mark E. Brady, PGFD.
The fire grew in intensity and eventually extended through the roof before all personnel were evacuated. The bulk of the fire was then knocked down from the exterior before firefighters returned to the interior and completed extinguishment.
One firefighter declared a Mayday after becoming separated from his crew while operating in the building at the height of the fire. The firefighter maintained his location until he was located by other firefighters almost immediately. The firefighter was not injured.
Fortunately, no injuries were reported. All of the apartments in the building of origin are displaced as well from the attached building on each side. There is a total of 30 apartments in the 3 buildings with 21 that are occupied.
The cause of the fire is accidental and attributed to a malfunctioning furnace. Preliminary fire loss is estimated at $250,000.
For a certain kind of firefighter, Kentland is legendary. It has a reputation for being tight, efficient and busy — particularly for an all-volunteer outfit. Its Web site gets 60,000 hits a day, and buffs follow its two Twitter accounts and Facebook page, which include routine updates and such goodies as the photo of a cranky, slightly drunk Santa who was extricated from a flipped taxi on the side of the Capital Beltway last weekend.
Seemingly every other inch of the firehouse is decorated with mementos, like plaques and T-shirts with such macho slogans as “We finish what others can’t” and “Go tough or go home” — or photos of memorable blazes. The firefighters, too, are decorated, with tattoos of “Kentland” common among those who have been around long enough to earn them.
The district Kentland serves includes rough areas and many needy families. On Tuesday, in between calls for a car that swerved into a highway embankment and smoke in an apartment building, a Kentland engine headed to a small complex with a sack of toys.
The driver, Michael Freeman, a 37-year-old D.C. firefighter, wore an elf hat. Patelis wore a New York Giants Santa hat. A mother, at first afraid to answer the knock on her window, silently cried as four burly men presented her 3-year-old son with trucks and puzzles.
This is a bit of an unusual find thanks to fire buff extraordinaire and STATter911.com personal friend Vito Maggiolo. It was posted to YouTube in August, 2008 (not sure how I missed it then) and shows a pumper from PGFD’s Bladensburg VFD (Station 809) laying out at a house fire in the 3400 block of Bladensburg Road in Northeast Washington (on the corner of 35th Street, NE). It’s a bit unusual because there is no automatic aid between DC and PG and the fire is one block inside the DC line.
I have no details or recollection of this fire. Was Bladensburg dispatched or were they following the smoke like the guy who took the video? It’s interesting to note Bladensburg pulls up to the house on the outbound side of Bladensburg Road (heading toward the county). Did they come up and turn around or were they already in DC on a transfer due to a major fire? As I have indicated, I haven’t a clue (clueless is my usual state), but I am sure there is more than one person out there who knows the answers.
It’s great no longer being a reporter. I don’t actually feel obligated to ask the questions or have any answers before posting and instead just let you sort it out among yourselves. Enjoy.
Prince George’s County Police have confirmed the death of PGPD Officer Kevin Bowden who was killed this afternoon in his take-home cruiser in an off-duty crash on Route 5 in Clinton, Maryland. Officer Bowden was 28-years-old and had been on the police department for six-years. He leaves behind two young children.
The accident occurred at Route 5 (Branch Avenue) and Surratts Road in Clinton. Branch Avenue is closed in both directions.
This is the second serious crash involving a Prince George’s County officer in three months. Officer Adrian Morris, 23, died after his cruiser ran off Interstate 95 while he and his partner were pursuing theft suspects Aug. 20.
Julie Parker, a Prince George’s County police spokeswoman, said the officer was headed northbound on Branch Avenue when the crash occurred about 3 p.m. near the intersection with Surratts Road. She said the officer and a civilian driver were taken to a nearby hospital, though she declined to specify the extent of their injuries.
It remains unclear what caused the crash, which Parker said involved just the two vehicles. Police are holding a news conference at the hospital at about 6 p.m. to provide more details, Parker said.
Official Tweets – latest first:
@PGPDNEWS Police Chief Magaw announces the death of #PGPD #Police Officer Kevin Bowden after a car crash on Branch Ave. 6:19 PM
@PGPDNEWS #PGPD will hold a press conference in front of the Southern MD Hospital ER at 6:15 pm in reference to the officer involved accident. 5:22 PM
@PGPDNEWS Please contact PIO at the top of the hill at the corner of the Colony South Hotel for all media requests 4:58 PM
@PGPDNEWS officer involved in serious accident on Branch Ave/Surrats Rd. Media staging area at Colony South hotel parking lot. 4:03 PM
@PGFDPIO Critical MVC involving County Police at Branch Ave and Surrats Rd in Clinton. Contact Police PIO for Updates 3:15 PM