Previous coverage of Saturday’s fires here and here
Yesterday evening, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Acting Chief Marc Bashoor sent an email to his department thanking the firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and support personnel for the hard work as they handled the large number of fires during the high winds over the week. Chief Bashoor wrote, in part:
Whether you were at the EOC with me, or on any of the dozen or more incident scenes, or providing staffing at a firehouse or perimeter post, or providing care and comfort for our people; whether you are a command officer, police officer, firefighter, EMT, paramedic, dispatcher, civilian, administrative, paid or volunteer: THANK YOU for a job well done.
Besides the thanks, Chief Bashoor encourages “all company officers to immediately hold hot-wash after action reviews (AAR) with your crews” and writes that “the Department will schedule a series of officer level AAR’s in the coming week.”
You can click above to read the entire email. The beginning of the message is below and gives a brief rundown of the events:
The wind and fire events of the past 36 hours have been unprecedented and truly historic for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.
At the height of events, the PGFD had nearly 600 Fire/EMS personnel engaged in operational or support activities from one end of the County to the other, and everywhere in between.
This included nearly 90 mutual aide personnel from the District of Columbia, the Maryland Counties of; Queen Anne, Cecil, Carroll, Caroline, Washington, Charles, St Mary’s, Calvert, Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, and Baltimore City, the Virginia jurisdictions of; Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax, along with private tankers from the state of West Virginia.
During this period nearly 900 calls for service were received by Public Safety Communications (PSC), with incoming equipment distributed to a Northern Area Command and a Southern Area Command for deployment.
As incident after incident overwhelmed available resources, and for the first time in recent memory, a full 1/3 of the career force was recalled to duty in three stages.
After a long day yesterday, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department PIO Mark Brady started the day with a run down of the significant wind driven fires that provided the department with one of the busiest days in its history. Below is Brady’s press release and pictures:
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department experienced one of the busiest days in the Departments history due to high winds and dry conditions that resulted in hundreds of brush fires and structure fires. Numerous personnel have been operating at several “hot spots” overnight and into this morning. These locations include Chalk Point, Laurel and Piscataway. The fires are 90% contained and should be near extinguishment today. It is safe to say that Saturday, February 19, 2011, will be remembered as one of the busiest days in our history. The Fire/EMS Department recalled off-duty firefighters to report to work; the last time this was done was September 11, 2001. Fire/EMS Department Public Safety Communications handled 821 calls for service yesterday; a normal day average is about 350 calls. Firefighters were summoned from throughout the state and the District of Columbia to assist on incidents (a complete list of mutual aid jurisdictions is listed below). Of all the homes damaged during this wind/fire event, it is estimated that $1 million + in fire loss occurred. Another estimated $1 million + in fire loss occurred to commercial property.
Photo by PGFD’s Mark Brady showing Engine 841 in position at the Van Dusen Road fire. The crew eventually had to abandon this spot, bringing the rig to safety but losing hose. At the Chalk Point Road fire BR 836 was destroyed by the fire.
There were seven “significant” incidents that occurred yesterday:
…6 am – 8400 block of Potomac Avenue in College Park – House Fire & multiple outbuildings/Brush Fire. Family Helped by Citizens Services Unit. Event closed out at 9:30 am.
…9:30 am – Chalk Point Road, Baden – 60 Acre Brush Fire. 100 firefighters, 1 Brush Vehicle burned up in this event, 1 firefighter suffered from heat exhaustion, units operated throughout the night.
…10:59 am – 5400 block of Van Dusen Road, Beltsville/Laurel – 300 Acre Brush/Mulch Fire. 100+ firefighters, 90% contained, units operated throughout the overnight, potential for a multiple day event. Interstate 95 was closed for 4 hours due to smoke and adjacent land areas burning. Two firefighters suffered non-serious injuries during this event.
Mark Brady photo from Piscataway Road. We haven’t seen much in the way of video or pictures from this fire. It apparently did the most property damage and received the least amount of news coverage.
…11:42 am – 11900 through the 12200 block of Piscataway Road in Clinton – 250 Acre Brush/House Fire, 2 homes, 5 + outbuildings and 5 abandoned farm homes. One family assisted by Citizen Services Unit. 150 firefighters, 90% contained, units operated overnight and will continue today, potential multiple day event.
…1:06 pm – Queen Anne Road in Bowie- 15 Acre Brush Fire
…4:18 pm – 5100 block of Decatur Street, Bladensburg – 2 house fires, 2 families displaced, assisted by Citizens Services Unit
There are firefighters operating in Prince George’s County from all of our routine Mutual Aide Counties, including all of our contiguous jurisdictions, as well as through assistance coordinated by the County Emergency Operations Center and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, from:
- St Mary’s County MD
- Calvert County MD
- Charles County MD
- Anne Arundel County MD
- Montgomery County MD
- Baltimore City MD
- Arlington County VA
- Alexandria City VA
- Fairfax County VA
- Washington DC
- Washington County MD
- Carroll County MD
- Cecil County MD
- Caroline County MD
- Queen Anne County MD
- Natural Resources
Another Brady photo. From Piscataway Road and Windbrook Drive.
The Emergency Operations Center in Landover Hills, was activated and was staffed with personnel from County Police, Fire/EMS, Central Services, Public Works, Emergency Management, Red Cross, Public Safety Communications, Homeland Security, and the County Executives Office.
There will continue to be smoke and odors from all of these fires for days. Citizens should keep their windows closed, and if they are sensitive to smoke, avoid areas impacted by these events.
Some roadways may become blocked from time to time as hoselines are stretched across roads. We did not officially evacuate anyone, nor prohibit them from returning to their homes, however people were not able to physically drive to their homes. We did close the Ice House in Beltsville/Laurel, due to the hazardous smoke and travel conditions.
Interstate 95 was closed in both directions in Laurel for approximately 4 hours.
Since early this morning the area around your Nation’s Capital has been hit hard with winds, sparking numerous brush fires and threatening and burning some homes. Fires are still burning. We will add info to this entry over the next couple of hours. In the meantime you can listen live to some of the area departments.
The winds toppled the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, DC.
Prince George’s County ordered the call back of career personnel to handle the numerous large fires. Two of the largest fires are at opposite ends of the county. One is in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. It forced the shut down of part of the adjacent I-95. Another fire still burning out of control along Piscataway Road. It has required mutual aid from Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia. Maryland units are assisting PGFD from as far away as Baltimore City and Caroline and Queen Anne’s Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (about 65 miles)..
The fires moved so fast that a brush unit from Baden VFD was burned and a pumper from Belstville had to be quickly moved.
North of the Washington area, Baltimore County has been dealing with a number of multi-alarm building fires since last night, plus numerous brush fires today.
I-95 was also closed for a while in the Dale City area of Prince William County due to a fire near the rest stop. See the picture above.
The morning started in Prince George’s County with a hint as to what was to come with the fire above (video provided by Firefighter Close Calls) at 8400 Potomac Avenue in the College Park area. Here is info from PGFD’s Mark Brady:
Firefighters were alerted around 6:00 am, Saturday, February 19, 2011, to a house fire in the 8400 block of Potomac Avenue. Upon arrival firefighters were met with a challenging scene involving a 2-story wood frame home fully involved with fire, rapid wind driven extension to homes on either side, two sheds on fire in back yards and a natural gas fire on the exterior of one of the neighbors houses.
With high winds and rapid extension with additional structures in imminent danger; the Incident Commander requested a Second Alarm, bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene.
It required nearly an hour for the bulk of the fire to be extinguished and another 2 hours to completely extinguish the fire in the house of origin. Firefighters kept the exterior natural gas fire in check and were able to extinguish that fire after Washington Gas Company workers shut off the natural gas main at about 8:30 am.
Late morning, at the far south end of Prince George’s County, a brush fire was reported near the Chalk Point Power Plant. I believe this is the fire that damaged Baden’s BR 36, a 1964 Ford.
Not too long after that, a fire that has required a lot of resources through the day was reported in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. This is the fire just west of I-95. It caused major traffic problems along the highway. The video above is some of the smoke from that fire that I shot while in the area this afternoon. Below are details from Brady released at 1:49 PM:
The largest incident involves about 100 acres of 30 foot high piles of mulch. The brush fire has extended about 2 miles over to Interstate 95. This fire has been burning since 12 noon and is still considered out of control.
In the video above a driver shows conditions on I-95 South near the Beltsville fire. The most interesting part is around 7:20 as Foam Unit 812 from College Park responds to a fire in the median strip of the highway.
Brady also announced a cancellation because of the fire. The event was to be hold where the initial staging area was located:
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has been forced to require the cancellation of the charity ice hockey event at the Ice House on Old Gunpowder Road.
This event was a game between Washington Capitals Alumni and public safety officers.
Also on the north end PGFD had a fire at Laurel Mall (short clip above). Brady reports during the 2:00 PM hour, “firefighters arrived at the Burlington Coat Factory, 14700 Baltimore Avenue, with a fire that appears to have started in a dumpster outside the building. The high winds blew the fire into the loading docks and inside the building.”
The picture above, courtesy of Firefighter Close Calls, is from a fire on Decatur Street and shows what PGFD and other departments have been dealing with today.
The other major fire tapping the region’s resources is along Piscataway Road between Clinton and Fort Washington. That battle began when a battalion chief rolled up on a couple of old structures burning on Gallahan Road. Here is Brady’s report at 4:46 PM:
A brush fire that appears to have started at a farm on Gallahan Road spread quickly driven by high winds. The fire damaged as many as 20 structures that include homes (some abandoned), sheds and barns. This incident escalated quickly to a third alarm with about 30 pieces of fire apparatus on location with about 120 firefighters working to extinguish the fires.
Damage to occupied homes are minor to moderate. No civilian or firefighter injuries have been reported.
Command post is set up at Piscataway Road and Windbrook Drive.
Below are news reports from around the region on the fires and high winds from WJLA-TV:
We hope to have more details later today on what sounded like a frustrating incident in Fairfax County last night. A house burned in Great Falls and the snow greatly prevented access to the scene. (Also, don’t forget to check the player to the right for the latest videos from WUSA9.com.)
The Joshua Temple Church in DC was one of a number of buildings that collapsed Saturday in Washington area.
Earlier in the day, I watched a relatively minor version of the same problem. Two trees in front of my house were smoking, thanks to the top of a utility pole and a tangle of power lines that were down in the street just to one side of my driveway. I still had power, as did most of my neighbors, but the service to my house was looking none to good with the line draping down from the meter and across our snow covered lawn to the street.
Not having the scanner with me (what kind of reporter is that?) I figured the half-hour or so delay after calling 911 was just from a back-up of higher priority calls. It turns out Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Engine 418 was dispatched immediately. It just took them a few tries to get into the neighborhood. Before long Capt. Michael Istvan and his crew were trudging down my street, wisely leaving the engine at the top of the hill.
They did exactly what I expected them to do and taped off the area so no one got zapped. While they were doing that we heard a little sizzle and a loud pop and that was the end of the power for most of the street (tree stopped burning too, imagine that). So far my natural gas fed generator is powering things well and we have become the most popular family in the neighborhood. I am guessing it will be a few days before the lines are restrung. This also means that we won’t likely see a snow plow on our street for a while.
The firefighters from Station 418 had been dispatched to a call around 8:00 AM that sounded a bit more exciting than the 911 response I generated. They were headed to Dulles International Airport where a hangar had collapsed due to the weight of the snow.
No one was hurt, but it sounds like some private jets took a beating. There is video and an interview above, and radio traffic from the incident below.
There was also a collapse of a hangar at Manassas Regional Airport around 1:30 PM. City of Manassas Fire & Rescue Department Chief Fire Marshal Francis Teevan describes it as a 24,000 square foot hangar owned by Dulles Aviation, Inc.