Units arrived on scene to find a 2 story single family home with heavy fire showing from the garage area. Units on the scene were Engine 806(St.Josephs), Engine 818(Glenndale), Engine 833(Kentland), Engine 846(Kentland), Tower 843, Rescue Engine 833 and Quint 838(Chapel Oaks). Several command officers including the Southern Division Chief (Chief 833 Kelleher with command) were on the scene.
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Yes, the headline is correct. I am returning to Oxon Hill, Maryland for this holiday, the place where I was a volunteer firefighter back in the 70s (despite what THE Fire Cricket says). I will also be working with PGFD, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. Thankfully though, the citizens of the area will not be relying on this fat, out of shape specimen to fight fires and save lives (hopefully the only wet stuff on the red stuff I will be doing is downing something cool to put out the fire in my belly after eating some traditional food for the holiday).
Actually, I will be performing. I am sure most of you don’t know this but I’m an international recording artist. Ten-years-ago I narrated a recording by the London Symphony Orchestra called “Hosedown”. Composed by Morton Gould in honor of his volunteer firefighter grandson, it’s a musical piece for fire trucks and orchestra. The recording was done at Abbey Road Studios (unfortunately my part was done here, though I was invited to the UK ).
For those who are doubting what I am telling you (and I don’t blame you), here’s a link to excerpts from the recording. You will hear some of my narration in the track titled “Prologue”. You will also note that my performance is really the “B” side of the record. The “A” side is a narration of a piece titled “And The President Said” by Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post executive editor of the Watergate era.
So you are probably asking what’s the connection to Oxon Hill and PGFD today. Hold on, it’s coming.
The man who put this recording together and conducted the orchestra is Jeffrey Silbershlag. Jeff is a brilliant musician who is artistic director and head of music performance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Jeff also happened to be in band with me at Sudbrook Jr. High School and Pikesville Sr. High School in Baltimore County. So, the choice of me as narrator was not based on talent alone (or at all). Jeff, who chased fires with me as a teenager back in the days when the old warehouses were burning prior to the revitalization of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, asked me to narrate “Hosedown” at the college as part of the annual River Concert Series a decade ago (I did such an underwhelming job he invited to be part of the recording).
Today, as part of the Pops on the Potomac series at National Harbor, Jeff, Dave and the wonderful Chesapeake Orchestra will once again perform “Hosedown” (if the weather holds out). Joining us will be the crew from PGFD’s Fireboat 858 (the Lawrence Woltz). If you are in the area please come on down (if you are a firefighter and have your gear with you we will make you part of the act … just find me before the performance). It should be fun. There will also be a lot more music, including jazz vocalist Hilary Kole singing songs from the American Songbook and, of course, “Stars and Stripes Forever”.
This should be a memorable Independence Day for me. As I’ve done in years past, I am recycling a column (below) and showing some videos from a previous memorable fire service related Independence Day.
Enjoy the holiday. Remember what it’s about. Keep in mind all those who fought for our freedoms (including that pesky First Amendment thingy) and all of those who protect us. Stay safe.
On previous July 4ths I have told you about my 1993 trip to New York to see FDNY in action. Two videos from that trip with fire buff extraordinaire Vito Maggiolo are on this page.
One of the videos (above) is of a most unusual experience, the crash of a blimp. Here’s what I wrote about that in 2007 (don’t you love it when an ego driven blogger quotes himself?):
Independence Day in 1993 was one of the stranger days of my life. I had gone with my friend Vito Maggiolo to New York to experience July 4th, usually the busiest day of the year for FDNY.
In the afternoon we were visiting one of Vito’s friends at Manhattan Fire Alarm in Central Park.
As we were sitting around chatting, the phones suddenly began ringing. We were hearing bits and pieces of only one side of the conversation. But the call takers were asking questions with surprised looks on their faces. We heard: “A what?”; “Where”?; “It’s deflating?”; “Over the Hudson?”.
Vito and I raced south and then to the west toward the Hudson River. We arrived just after the first firefighters and saw Pizza Hut’s Bigfoot Pizza Blimp draped over the side of an apartment building. We watched as the two injured crew members were brought down from the roof.
The other video (above) is more relevant to today’s column. It gives you a glimpse of Brooklyn at a time when citizens with massive amounts of fireworks helped make Independence Day the busiest day of the year for FDNY.
Here is what I wrote four years ago about my 1993 experience:
It seemed as if fireworks were going off on every street. Barrels of fireworks burned in the middle of many blocks. Bottle rockets struck our car. M-80s exploded in trash can after trash can. The radio blared with reports of neighbor’s homes set on fire by fireworks along with numerous reports of injured people.
On one hand it felt as if I had been transported to a war zone. I’ll admit, being new to this, it was a little scary. At the same time, it reminded me of something very beautiful — one of my favorite movies, Barry Levinson’s “Avalon”.
The scene of Russian immigrant Sam Krichinsky arriving in Baltimore on July 4th is repeated throughout the film. As he walks under exploding fireworks all around him, this is the voice-over dialogue:
I came to America in 1914–by way of Philadelphia. That’s where I got off the boat. And then I came to Baltimore. It was the most beautiful place you ever seen in your life. There were lights everywhere! What lights they had! It was a celebration of lights! I thought they were for me, Sam, who was in America. Sam was in America! I know what holiday it was, but there were lights. And I walked under them. The sky exploded, people cheered, there were fireworks! What welcome it was, what a welcome!
Kevin O’Toole says he has never been more happy to be in a firehouse than he was Tuesday night. And when you learn about his story, you’ll understand why.
It was about seven-thirty at night back on February 24th, an especially windy night in Prince George’s County, when a fire broke out in a two-story house in Riverdale. About a dozen firefighters were battling the blaze when, suddenly, an especially strong gust of wind created a fireball inside the house, injuring all seven firefighters who were on the first floor, including Kevin O’Toole.
The injured firefighters were all taken to the hospital. Six of them were released within a few days, but O’Toole was hospitalized for eight weeks with burns over fifty percent of his body, before going back to his parents’ house on Long Island to continue his recovery.
“You have to remember that your hands aren’t as good as they used to be,” O’Toole said.
On Tuesday, he made his first trip back to his Bladensburg firehouse, where he and a few of the other firefighters injured that February night were honored by Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
The 21-year-old O’Toole, who just graduated from community college, says he’s now considering becoming a professional firefighter. When asked if the fire in Riverdale had make him think twice about running into a burning building again, he paused, but for just a second.
“There are things that people need to do, and I still feel the calling to do that,” O’Toole said.
Just before 2:00 am, Wednesday, June 6, firefighters from the Bladensburg area were alerted to a house fire in the 4800 block of 48th Avenue. Fire/EMS units arrived to find fire showing from the attic of the 1 ½ story single family home. The fire was quickly contained and extinguished. The fire was caused by a faulty ventilation pipe from the cooking area. Fire loss is estimated at $70,000.
The eight occupants are displaced, 3 adults and 5 children, and are being assisted by the County Citizen Services Unit and the American Rd Cross. No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.
From press release by Mark Brady, PGFD (Still images by Brady & video by William “Hawk” Hawkins, Fire Chiefs Aide):
On a day when storms rolled through Prince George’s County with heavy rains, high winds and threats of tornado’s, the Fire/EMS Department Technical Services Team was kept busy. The team handles complex rescues involving collapse, confined space, high angle and swift water. The teams had to utilize two of those skills while performing the rescue of three teen-aged males from the swollen and swift moving Northwest Branch waterway.
Sometime after 7:00 pm several residents of the Mount Rainier and Brentwood Community came outdoors during a break in the storms. The power of Mother Nature was evident near the 38th Street Bridge in Mount Rainier. One resident saw three teen aged males walking near the shoreline. She turned away for just a moment and when she looked back she saw them in the water frantically attempting to make their way back to the safety of the shore. They didn’t stand a chance swimming in the swift moving water and were carried downstream. They passed a concrete bridge support and each one was able to grab onto and climb on to the wide base. They became stranded and trapped with the water level continuing to rise. The witness called 911 and a response of Fire/EMS Units from Bunker Hill, Hyattsville and Chillum responded to the scene as well as the Departments Technical Services Team and rescue boats from the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad and Marine Division. Firefighters worked rapidly to devise a plan to retrieve the teens. Another thunderstorm was approaching and the water level in the Northwest Branch continued to rise.
A system of ropes and pulleys were set up with the assistance of the ladder from Hyattsville. Firefighter Joe Ford was placed into a harness and lowered over the bridge and down about 25 feet to the water level. He explained to the anxious teens how the rescue would work; the teens would be raised to the top of the bridge one at a time. Once on the bridge level they were treated for hypothermia by medics. All three were removed at about 8:20 pm and transported to a hospital in good condition.
The successful outcome of this incident was a result of coordination and teamwork by all personnel on the scene. Incident Commanders, firefighters, EMT’s, Paramedics, Technical Services and Marine Division personnel, both volunteer, career and civilian, worked cohesively to bring this potentially tragic incident to a extremely positive outcome.
A press conference with just about every print, television and radio media outlet in the Washington-Baltimore Region present to document this important day, Volunteer Sergeant Kevin O’Toole stepped outside of the hospital for the first time since he was admitted 55 days ago. A significant day in Kevin’s recovery; being discharged from the hospital and starting the next phase as an out patient for the next several months.
Kevin O’Toole, 21 years of age, has been hospitalized since he sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns while battling a Riverdale house fire on February 24. At about 1:30 pm, Kevin was brought from the Burn Unit of Medstar Washington Hospital Center downstairs where he stepped out of the wheelchair. He walked gingerly with his parents, Jeff and Jane O’Toole, Bladensburg Fire Chief Randy Kuenzil and Jason Woods from the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. He greeted fellow members as they stood by Truck 809 and then he made his way to the microphone. Sergeant O’Toole was very gracious in responding to questions about his injuries, recovery process and future plans. Volunteer Chief Kuenzil and Burn Foundation President Woods also provided comments concerning Kevin’s stay at the hospital and recovery.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor visited Kevin earlier in the day and wished him the best in his recovery process.
Kevin O’Toole boarded the front seat of Truck 809, the unit that brought him to the house fire where he was injured. Bladensburg’s ladder truck, 2 engines and 2 chiefs buggies departed the hospital en route back to the Fire/EMS Station. He was greeted at the station by a host of firefighters from Bladensburg and other surrounding stations. Kevin’s return now closes the operational aspect of the call now that everyone has gone home.
Kevin will join his parents as they travel back to Bethpage, New York in the morning. He will continue his out patient treatment and physical therapy in Bethpage.
Kevin O’Toole and his family have been told he should be discharged sometime between 1 pm and 2 pm. Kevin can be soft spoken and does not relish the media spotlight. He has agreed to make comments to the media after he leaves the hospital and before he boards Bladensburg Truck 809, the unit he was on the night of the fire, for a return trip home, the fire station, to ceremoniously close the incident.
Kevin will not address the incident itself and requests the media refrain from asking those questions. He will respond to questions about his injuries, treatment, support and immediate plans for the future
O’Toole was the most serviously injured of seven firefighters in the wind driven February 24 house fire on 57th Avenue.
NOTE: Some of our readers pointed out the comments were off on this post and wondered why. A very good question. It was completely accidental and was unknown to the editor until the emails arrived. As of 11:35 PM on 4-18 the comments are on.
Prince George’s County Firefighter/Medics rescued a worker that was trapped within a large piece of machinery in what proved to be a very challenging rescue. Firefighters and Paramedics were dispatched to an industrial area in the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road in Laurel at about 11:00 am. A worker at a mulch plant had become trapped inside of a machine that is used to inject colored dye into mulch. First arriving Firefighter/Medics found an adult male that had both legs trapped within heavy machinery and very little to no space to move in the machines “hopper.” Access to the victim was only possible by using ground ladders.
The victim was so entangled in heavy metal machinery that paramedics feared surgical intervention would be required to free the critically injured worker. Paramedics requested a “Go Team” respond to the scene. A GO TEAM is a group of medical professionals that normally work in a hospital environment. When requested, a team of surgeons, nurses, anesthetists and other medical staff will be taken to the scene and if needed do what they need to do to remove the patient from entrapment.
Additional Fire/EMS Department resources including the Technical Rescue Team, Hazardous Materials Team, a tower ladder and additional engine companies operated on the scene for just over 90 minutes. There were a total of 50 firefighter/medics on the scene.
A CRNA was first member of GO TEAM to arrive at the scene. Photo by PGFD’s Mark E. Brady.
A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) was the first member of the GO TEAM to arrive. He was brought from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Hospital on board Maryland State Police Trooper 2 to the scene. A combination of Fire/EMS Department Paramedics, the CRNA and the flight medic from Trooper 2 worked together to devise the best course of medical treatment for the victim in conjunction with the members of the Technical Rescue Services.
Parts of the machine were disabled and removed, however, the victim still remained wedged in the machine. The victim was in severe pain and was sedated and intubated. The combination of the removal of parts of the machinery and sedation allowed rescuers enough room to maneuver the victim’s legs out of the machinery without causing additional pain and without surgical intervention. The victim was free of entrapment at about 12:30 pm.
Once extricated the victim was placed into a stokes basket suspended from the extended bucket of the Tower Ladder from Laurel Fire/EMS Station #810 and control maintained by a rope and pulley system established by the Technical Rescue Team.
Once on the ground the victim was treated by a combination of Prince George’s County Paramedics, the flight medic from MSP Trooper 2 and the CRNA. MSP Trooper 2 Medevac transported the patient to a trauma center. The victim was still intubated and suffering from critical injuries to both legs. His injuries, while critical, are not considered life threatening at this point.
Just before 2:30 am, Sunday, January 29, 2012, Firefighters fought a house fire that caused $300,000 in estimated fire loss. The fire at the 2-story single family home was caused accidentally and attributed to an electrical source. Fire/EMS arrived in the 8000 block of Wingate Drive in Glenn Dale and found a well-advanced fire on both floors of the structure. A Task Force was sounded bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene to help battle the blaze. It required about 30 minutes to knock down the majority of the fire and another 45 minutes to extinguish all the hot spots.
The County Citizen Services Unit was providing assistance to the occupants that will suffer long-term displacement.
A firefighter sustained a leg injury while she was battling the fire and was transported in “good” condition to a local hospital. No civilian injuries reported.
This morning the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation posted this picture and update on the Foundation's Facebook page with the latest on Bladensburg VFD's Firefighter Kevin O'Toole. They report that Firefighter O'Toole was up and around a bit today and will go for a second round of skin grafts tomorrow. As we reported late last night Firefighter Ethan Sorrell was brought home from the burn unit by Bladensburg's Truck 809 and is back with his family in North Carolina.
Photo by Billy McNeel of Firefighter Sorrell's radio on display at this afternoon's press conference.
At a press conference this afternoon, PGFD announced that an investigation shows the fire Friday night on 57th Avenue that injured seven firefighters was deliberately set.
Here's a press release from PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady:
A fire occurred on Friday, February 24, 2012, at 9:11 P.M., in which 7 firefighters were injured and treated at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Six of those injured have been released, with 1 remaining in the Burn Unit. A Press Conference was held at the Fire/EMS Departments Cranford-Graves Fire Services Building in Landover Hills. The purpose was to bring everyone up to date with the firefighter injuries and announce the cause and origin of the fire.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor was elated to announce that Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Fighter Ethan Sorrell has been released from the hospital. Ethan was released on Tuesday evening. He was injured in the fire on Friday evening, February 24, 2012. Bladensburg Volunteer Chief Randy Kuenzil informed Chief Bashoor that Sorrell will have a follow up appointment next week. Sorrell returned home with his parents to North Carolina for about a week or until his follow up visit next week.
Upon his return he will more than likely reside at the Bladensburg Fire/EMS Station and make follow-up medical appointments and spending most of his time at the Burn Unit with his fellow firefighter, Kevin O’Toole. He remains in "Critical" but "Stable" condition. Kevin is undergoing medical procedures and skin graph surgeries and is expected to remain in the Burn Unit for up six weeks.
Photo by PGFD's Mark Brady.
As with any fire of this magnitude, a complete and thorough investigation into the cause and origin is conducted. This particular investigation involved investigators from the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department’s Office of the Fire Marshal; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; County Police Department; and the State’s Attorney’s Office. Investigators have worked around the clock since the incident occurred to determine the cause and origin of the fire.
The investigative team has determined the fire that occurred at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale is the result of arson, the area of origin is the basement. The house next door, 6402 57th Avenue, where a previously unreported fire occurred on an earlier date, is also being investigated as arson. Investigators reached this conclusion based on evidence collected at the scene of both fires. Because this is an open and on-going criminal investigation, evidence cannot and will not be discussed.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, “We will leave no stone unturned. Every resource available to us will be used to find the person(s) responsible for setting this fire. Once the responsible person(s) have been identified, we will work with the State’s Attorney to ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
States Attorney Angela Alsobrooks spoke and stated, "I am impressed with the case that investigators have put together and agree with the Fire Chief in that we will prosecute the responsible person to the fullest extent of the Law."
In addition to criminal charges related to arson, there could be criminal charges stemming from the injuries to the firefighters.
We are asking for the community‘s involvement and assistance in helping to identify the person(s) responsible for setting these fires. If you have information about either of these incidents, call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). You may also send your tips, SECURELY and ANONYMOUSLY, via TEXT MESSAGE by typing "PGPD" plus your message, and sending it from your cell phone to "CRIMES" (274637). If your information leads the capture of any of these fugitives, you may be eligible for a CASH REWARD up to $1,000.
The Prince George’s County Arson Tip Line will also accept information at 301-77-ARSON, or email 77ARSON@co.pg.md.us.
This picture was posted to Facebook this evening by Bladensburg VFD Captain Kyle Schultz showing Firefighter Ethan Sorrell being released from the Medstar Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center. Sorrell was brought home on Truck 809, the rig that took him to the fire on 57th Avenue Friday night when he was burned.
Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Kevin O'Toole remains at the burn unit and is expected to do for some time due to burns over 40% of his body.
Earlier today PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady issued this press release outlining the three pronged investigation Chief Marc Bashoor has ordered looking into Friday night's fire that injured seven firefighters:
Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor has stated that he will ensure a thorough and complete investigation into the incident that resulted in seven firefighters being injured. On Friday evening, February 24, 2012, firefighters responded to 911 reports of a house fire at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale. Two of the injured firefighters remain hospitalized in the Burn Unit at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center.
In order to discover the chain of events and circumstances which contributed to the outcome of this incident, Fire Chief Bashoor has issued a high-priority directive for the Department to immediately embark on a thorough investigation which will involve three parallel, ongoing and interrelated disciplines:
• Determination of Cause and Origin – as is customarily conducted under the direction of our Office of the Fire Marshall.
• An Operational Review and After Action Report – Conducted under the direction of our Emergency Services Command.
• A Thorough Safety Audit of the Incident – by a Safety Investigation Team (SIT), this will be conducted under the direction of the Risk Management and Safety Office, by both internal and external partners that the Fire Chief will select.
Fire Chief Bashoor wrote to members of the Fire/EMS Department, "If we are to truly learn from this experience, we MUST first be honest with ourselves and honest and forthcoming with information that these teams will need."
It is important to note that all three Investigative Teams will be regularly communicating their progress. The SIT will be selected from both internal and external resources to assure independent verification of fact.
Bashoor stated. "It is my intent to leave no stone un-turned and no question un-asked as we seek to discover the contributing factors that precipitated this incident. As Fire Chief, I commit to you that each of these inquests will be open and honest. I further commit that the eventual findings will be promptly released in the form of a written After Action Report." He concluded, "This After Action Report will serve to benefit not only firefighters in Prince George's County but will be made available to all fire departments to assist them in avoiding similar circumstances."
An annoucemnt concernng the cause and origin of the fire is ecpected within the next 24 to 48 hours.
UPDATE: PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady who has been keeping us up to date on the injured firefighters has this report, received a little after 6:00 PM -
The injured firefighters, Ethan Sorrell and Kevin O'Toole, continue to show signs of progress each and every day. The volunteers firefighters are still in the Burn Unit ICE at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center.
Ethan had his breathing tube removed and is now breathing on his own. His spirits have increased as he was encouraged to walk the hallways and had the opportunity to spend time with some visitors.
Kevin had skin graph surgery performed on several of his burns today and we were told that it went well.
Both Ethan and Kevin are currently resting at the Doctors direction.
This picture and caption posted just before 4:00 PM on the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation Facebook page shows Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Ethan Sorrell surrounded by family after being taken off of a ventilator. Obviously a good sign that he is breathing on his own, but no official word on updates on Firefighter Sorrell's condition or the condition of Firefighter Kevin O'Toole.
It's a good time to tell you about the great work the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation does. The members of the Foundation are a constant presence whenever a firefighter shows up at the Medstar Burn Unit of the Washington Hospital Center. I have talked to many firefighters who have found themselves in the burn unit and each one and their families always mention the support provided by the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. Make sure you support them.
From the Foundation's website here is a description of what they do:
The D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization founded by active and retired Washington, D.C. Firefighters. The Foundation is dedicated to assisting in the recovery and rehabilitation of injured firefighters and burn patients in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. We support burn research, treatment, and rehabilitation programs at Washington Hospital Center as well as the Children's Burn Camp Program. Firefighters and members of the Burn Center have a special empathy for burn victims. No other group witnesses more of the devastation that fire wreaks on the human body and spirit.
Our board of directors is made up of active and retired D.C. firefighters and our membership consists of firefighters, medical professionals, burn survivors, and other interested volunteers from the community. All members of our organization serve on a voluntary basis.
Photos and information from PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady:
Parents of three volunteer firefighters injured in a house fire on Friday evening spoke to members of the media today to personally describe their sons medical status.
Parents of the three firefighters; McClary, Sorrell and O’Toole, County Fire Chief Bashoor and Bladensburg Volunteer Chief Randy Kuenzli all spoke.
The group took a moment from the Fourth Floor East Burn Unit at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center and spoke near the front entrance to the hospital.
The mother of Riverdale Volunteer Fire Fighter Michael McClary spoke on his behalf and explained that he had been released yesterday. Fire Fighter McClary suffered injuries to his ribs and burns to both hands. Cheryl McClary emotionally stated, “We are very thankful and our hearts are still with the ones that are still in hospital.”
Jeff and Jane O'Toole.
Vann and Kathy Sorrell of Buies Creek, North Carolina, and Jeff and Jane O’Toole of Bethpage, New York, each spoke with members of the media. The parents, no strangers to the fire service, each described their sons current medical status and spoke highly of the care they are receiving at the Burn Unit. They also spoke highly of the support system provided by members of the fire service and the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. Both injured firefighters remain in “Critical” and “Stable” condition. Their parents describe them as being in relatively good spirits and showing some signs of improvement. Each has a long road to recovery.
Vann and Kathy Sorrell.
Jeff O’Toole stated his son has at least 6 weeks in the Burn Unit with another 6 months of physical rehabilitation after that. Kevin O’Toole sustained burns over 40% of his body. He is scheduled for skin graph procedure on Monday. Kevin can communicate by talking.
Ethan Sorrell remains intubated, however, is conscious, and communicates by writing notes. He is scheduled for examinations tomorrow that can help determine the extent of his airway burns.
The Burn Units Medical Staff allowed Ethan to walk over to visit Kevin for a short period of time.
Mark Brady notes that both fathers, Vann Sorrell and Jeff O'Toole, are also firefighters.
PGFD Chief Marc Bashoor and Bladensburg VFD Chief Randy Kuenzli.
Notes: Bladensburg VFD Chief Randy Kuenzli confirms both Firefighter Ethan Sorrell and Firefighter Kevin O'Toole have connections to other departments in addition to Bladensburg VFD. Sorrell at the Buies Creek FD in North Carolina and O'Toole at the Bethpage FD on Long Island.
Also, this fire occurred on the same side of 57th Avenue just a few doors away from a November 2008 house fire that left two Riverdale VFD firefighters with burns after a flashover.
In addition, Mark Brady tells STATter911.com the annual banquet for Bladensburg VFD is tonight and that both firefighters have indicated to Chief Kuenzli they want the events to go on as scheduled and for everyone to enjoy themselves.
This fire was at 6318 57th Avenue on November 21, 2008. The flashover burned two firefighters from Riverdale. Picture by Tony George. See more pictures.
Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Fighter Ethan Sorrell, 21 years of age, remains in "Critical" condition with burns to his airway. Family members left Durham NC, last night to be with him today.
Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Fighter Kevin O’Toole, 22 years of age, was evaluated late last night/early this morning as being in "Critical" condition with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 40% of his body. Family members from Long Island, NY, were en route last night to be with Kevin.
Riverdale Volunteer Fire Fighter Michael McLary, 19 years of age, continued to receive treatment for injuries to his upper body/ribs. His ribs are not fractured, however, bruised with possible cartilage damage. He may be released as early as today. Family members were with him last night.
Dozens of family, friends and fire service personnel have been at the hospital throughout the night with the injured firefighters and remain there today. The Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center, their Doctors and staff are the very best at what they do – treating burn patients.
The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department sincerely appreciates the support provided by the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to assisting in the recovery and rehabilitation of injured firefighters and burn patients in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. Members of the Foundation were at the hospital before the first firefighter arrived and started support efforts for the injured firefighters, family and co-workers. Two of the injured firefighters have primary family members coming from out of town. The Foundation made accommodations for them at a nearby hotel and will continue to provide support for as long as is needed.
Firefighters that have been previously burned and treated at the Burn Unit become members of a fraternity. These firefighters return to the Burn Unit whenever a firefighter receives burn injuries and provide valuable insight to family, friends and co-workers about the treatment and recovery process. One of those fraternity members is Riverdale Volunteer Chief Chuck Ryan. He sustained critical burn injuries while on the job with DCFD. Ryan was at the Burn Unit overnight helping others to understand the treatment process that Bladensburg firefighters were receiving and what to expect in the days to come.
The volunteer leadership of Blandensburg, Riverdale, College Park as well as Fire Chief Marc Bashoor and the entire Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department acknowledge and are grateful the tremendous outpouring and offers of assistance from fire departments across the National Capitol Region. We are also inspired by the numerous well wishes, thoughts and prayers being offered from across the Country for our injured firefighters.
Prince George's County Fire Investigators continue their work to determine the cause and origin of the fire. The investigation is open and on-going. Fire loss to the vacant structure is estimated at $75,000.
Updates on the medical condition of the injured firefighters will be provided as additional information becomes available.
Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor will be at the Washington Hospital Center and will make himself available for comment anytime after 9:30 am. Please contact me to make arrangements.
At about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, a monstrous crash caused Bowie resident Claudia Calderwood to run from her home.
She soon found two men trapped in a terribly mangled car that had wrapped around a tree.
The rescue of two critically injured men from a bad car crash, sadly, isn't uncommon. However, this one became anything but run-of-the-mill, when a volunteer firefighter showed up to save his twin brother.
At the moment of the crash, Travis Murdoch, a police dispatcher with Prince George's County Public Safety Communications and a Bowie volunteer firefighter, jumped into an ambulance. He was tasked with initially assessing and treating the injured at the crash site, near Stonehaven Lane and Stoneybrook Drive.
When he arrived on the scene, he instantly recognized the car and, to his horror, his twin brother Chris, a fellow firefighter, trapped in the mangled vehicle.
"I can only imagine what occurred in that state," Prince George's County Fire spokesman Mark Brady said. "They took a moment out of shock and then went to work."
The passenger in the car was easily freed from the wreckage, but it took the rescue squad more than 30 minutes and the Jaws of Life to free Chris. The rescue happened while his twin brother, a two-time Firefighter of the Year, looked on.
"It was terrible the way that they had to cut that car apart," Calderwood said. "It was like nothing I've ever seen."
Eventually, Chris was removed from the car and both he and the passenger were flown the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where they remain in critical condition.
UPDATE: PGFD's Mark Brady reported early Sunday morning that Vito has been found and more details would be coming from Fairfax County.
From PGFD's Mark Brady:
A Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue dog is the subject of a search that has been ongoing since Thursday, when he disappeared during a training exercise in Bowie, Prince George's County.
Vito, a three-year-old German Shepherd, was being trained to replace his father, Czaro, who had been deployed all over the world as part of Fairfax County's Urban Search and Rescue team. According to Sonja Heritage, Vito's FEMA trainer, the dog was very close to certification when he disappeared.
Vito is described as a large and friendly black German Shepherd who was last seen on Thursday near the intersection of Routes 301 and 450 in Bowie, close to the Shell gas station. Anyone who sees Vito is asked to call (301) 655-7643.
At 2350 Units from 20 and 45 were dispatched for an outlet sparking while enroute the call was upgraded to a box. Engine 202 arrived on the scene with fire showing from the rear of a two story single family.Whie making an aggressive attack on the fire command sounded the evacuation tone after recieving a report of a collapse. Chief 33 advised command that fire was through the roof but there ws no collapse. Engine 202s crew and Tower 33 reentered and were able to knock the fire and take care of any hot spots.
A five-year-old girl who nearly died during an asthma attack November 28th thanked the three Prince George's County firefighter/paramedics who's quick action saved her life.
Christina Luckett handed out personalized plaques featuring her picture and photo to firefighter/medics Edward Scott, William Philpott and Clinton volunteer firefighter Ashley Butler as she met the rescuers inside the firehouse.
The trio also received Emergency Service Awards from Prince George's County fire chief Marc. S. Bashoor.
The rescuers took the unusual step of racing Christina to Southern Maryland Hospital in their fire truck while performing CPR, rather than waiting a few extra minutes for an ambulance to arrive. She had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
She was released from the hospital 3-days later and has fully recovered.
"Thank you!" Christina exclaimed before the formalities. "They helped me feel better."
During the first couple of years of this rag Kentland VFD was regularly featured. The topics were everything but fighting fires and usually revolved around high profile battles with the administration of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department.
While we haven't seen any such controversy in the news involving the folks on Landover Road, we do occasionally get a glimpse of them in action. This is a brief video from a fire early on Friday in Kentland's first due at 1419 First Street in Glenarden. Click here for details on the from Kentland33.com.
A Berwyn Heights resident is hospitalized after sustaining burn injuries during a fire inside of her house. At about 4:45 pm, Sunday, October 30, Fire/EMS units from the Berwyn Heights and the College Park area were alerted to a house fire in the 8500 hundred block of 58th Avenue. Berwyn Heights firefighters arrived to find fire coming from the 1-story single family home and an adult female just exiting her home. Paramedics tended to the injured adult female as firefighters worked to extinguish the fire. The adult female resident was transported by paramedics to a Burn Unit in fair condition. It appears that she was the only person at home when the fire started.
There were about 35 firefighters and medics that required about 10 minutes to extinguish the fire. Fire Investigators believe the fire started in the master bedroom located in the rear of the house. The cause of the fire remains under investigation until Investigators have an opportunity to interview the resident, however, they believe the fire to be accidental. Fire loss is estimated at $80,000 for the structure and contents.
Some interesting developments in the news about plans to change the structure and authority of volunteer fire commissions in both Prince George's County and Montgomery County.
In PG, County Executive Rushern Baker, in hopes that a compromise can be worked out, pulled back emergency legislation yesterday that would radically change the Prince George's County Fire Commission. The original plan would have Baker appoint commission members who live in the county and add career firefighter and civilian members to the panel. Currently, the all-volunteer commission is elected by the volunteer departments. The latest version keeps those changes but the commission would maintain control of its budget.
“The fire chief has advised the county executive that due to the tremendous efforts of our volunteers … they should be given an additional opportunity to come to a consensus on this reorganization, ” Brad Frome, Baker’s deputy chief of staff, told the council Tuesday.
A new executive order that maintains the residency requirement and changes to the appointment process but does not revoke the commission's authority over the $12 million in budget funds, was to be introduced Tuesday afternoon, Frome said. That order would not go into effect until March 1, which the administration feels is ample time to reach a compromise and alter the legislation as needed.
In Montgomery County, County Executive Isiah Leggett appears to be not quite as passionate as Chief Richard Bowers about removing the commission's veto power over the chief's orders.
“I agree with the sentiment of trying to provide some level of conformity and some level of direct manning and control and having the chief far more supported than he is today,” said Leggett, who did not attend the public hearing. “There’s still a question that this bill might be able to do that.”
Leggett said he has heard of alternatives but declined to say what they are. Both Bowers and Marcine D. Goodloe, president of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, say they remain firm on their stances. Bowers: chuck the veto entirely. Goodloe: keep it as it stands.
As the funding for fire departments and everything else continues to decrease around the country we have seen an increase in the number of news stories asking very tough questions about how the money that is available is being spent. The call for financial accountability has taken a toll on the reputation of a large number of fire departments around the country. It has become an important factor behind the image problem the fire service is experiencing.
The issue is usually pushed by the public and political leaders or generated by a news organization's investigation (or a combination). While sometimes these citizens, politicians and reporters solidly hit the mark and uncover a real problem, there have been other cases where the data is flawed or someone's agenda took precedent over the facts.
A series of articles this week in The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Maryland looks closely at how money is distributed and spent by the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association and the individual volunteer fire companies. The fire companies are funded by the county budget, municipal budgets, state funding, federal grants, the association and private gaming (click here for the article on funding sources).
The headline on the main article is Where is the accountability?. It documents how financial reports the fire companies provide each year to the Washington County Division of Emergency Services, as a requirement for receiving money, are rarely examined. Director Kevin Lewis says the staff isn't available to scrutinize the reports either before or after the money is distributed. The other big issue in the articles is how the association distributes its portion of gaming money and how much it keeps.
My purpose in bringing all of this up is not to pass judgment on the facts in any of these examples but to ask are you as a fire chief, union president, volunteer president or association head ready to effectively deal with such scrutiny of your department, your firefighters and your finances?
I am far from expert in financial matters (I can barely balance the checkbook, even with Quicken), but I think I know a few things about dealing with your image and reputation based on my experience as a reporter and following the clear pattern of these stories across the country for the last three years or so.
Here are some tips (far from comprehensive and in no particular order).
Get your house in order. Deal with problems that will likely cause distraction from the real issue and give your enemies ammunition. For example, sick leave abuse allegations that could crop up at a time you are dealing with pension issues, or videos showing up on YouTube that cause reputation problems while you're trying to hold on to funding or authority.
Be proactive. Don't wait until you are under attack. Anticipate what the issues will be and start dealing with them now. If needed, do your own audit or investigation. Find out what the financial problems are and deal with them before someone else does it for you.
Don't defend the indefensible. No one wants to hear "that's the way we've always done it", or "it's tradition", as an argument when the financial picture is bleak. Cut your losses, move beyond the things you can't win and focus your political capital where it can be effective.
Have good solid arguments and justification for your positions. Focus on public safety and firefighter safety.
Don't just reach out to the public and the press for help when the going gets tough. You should have a communications strategy that helps you build reputation equity in your community each and every day. The public needs to know who you are, what you stand for and how you are relevant in their lives if they are going to come to your defense when you are under attack. The reporters also need to know who you are and that you're an honest and credible broker of information.
Be passionate about what you believe in but lose some of the emotion. Make a strong, believable case, but be very careful about using threats and attacks. They can and will backfire. In most cases it isn't going to work anymore to say stuff it, we're firefighters, then make a personal attack on the opposition and hold your breath until you turn blue.
I am sure there are many more tips and ideas for weathering these storms. Certainly there is enough experience out there in recent years from those who have dealt first hand with these problems. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.
Early this morning we brought you the close-up view of the burning and exploding ambulance yesterday at 38th Street & Rhode Island Avenue in Mt. Rainier, Maryland. It was provided to us by Bladensburg VFD Chief Randy Kuenzli. While the video above is from a much further distance, across Rhode Island Avenue from the fire, it still provides a unique perspective of the fire and explosion. It gives us the view of the average citizen with a camera.
The commentary is the selling point of this clip. And the man taking the video says he is trying to do just that, "I'm going to call the news. I am going to make money". I don't know if he will be successful, but from my point of view this one is priceless.
This is video Bladensburg VFD Chief Randy Kuenzli shot yesterday at 38th Street and Rhode Island Avenue in Mt. Rainier, Maryland which is within spitting distance of PGFD Station 855, Bunker Hill. Station 855 was assigned elsewhere and the call was handled by Station 809, Bladensburg VFD. It's engine responded with seven on board and got there after the explosion that blew the roof off the ambulance. I am assuming that is an oxygen tank letting loose.
The explosion occurs at 1:10 in the video. I added a slow-motion version at the end of the video. There are a number of other smaller blasts in the video. Some that you would expect with any vehicle fire.