The video above captured the explosion earlier this afternoon. It is at approximately 1:05 in the video.
In the video immediate below the person with the camera asks. “How far away do you think we are?’. His answer comes almost immediately. Clearly not far enough. Thanks to STATter911.com reader Lewis Melcher for first alerting us to both videos.
Authorities in Baltimore County were responding to a report of a train derailment in the White Marsh area that caused a loud explosion and sent a plume of white smoke into the sky that could be seen clearly from downtown Baltimore.
Baltimore County police posted to Twitter that a cargo train had derailed in the 7500 block of Lake Drive, near an industrial park. Initial reports were that no one was hurt, but hazardous material teams were responding to the scene.
Several industrial buildings were reported to have collapsed, and police were diverting traffic from Pulaski Highway.
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:
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.
Prince George’s County Police report a 23-year-old officer was killed this afternoon and a second officer injured after the two spotted theft suspects in the Laurel area. The officer has not been identified. Police report he was the driver of the police cruiser and was ejected from the vehicle.
A 23-year-old Prince George’s County Police officer was killed and another was injured when their cruiser crashed on I-95 while pursuing a suspect, officials said Monday.
The officer, who has yet to be identified, died when he was ejected from his cruiser after leaving southbound I-95 and crashing into a ditch near the interchange with Powder Mill Road.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw said that both officers were investigating a theft in the Laurel area when they caught sight of a silver Acura driven by who they identified as as a suspect.
At some point during the pursuit, Magaw says that their cruiser left the roadway and crashed.
The officer who died, who was driving the cruiser at the time, was a 2 1/2-year veteran of the force and had spent time at in the 6th District in Prince George’s County since he was “15 or 16 years old.”
The second officer, who has been with the force for about a year, remains hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, Magaw said.
“The community will wrap its arms around these officers and their families to get through this,” County Executive Rushern Baker said.
A lookout is ongoing for the silver Acura with temporary tags that was involved in the pursuit and eventual crash. Magaw was unable to provide a tag number for the suspect car.
Magaw did say that the officers followed protocol during the incident and that he’s “very proud” of their work.
“It shows the courage and dedication of these officers,” Magaw said.
The officer who died served in Prince George’s County’s 6th district, which serves the City of Laurel and northeastern portion of the county. Magaw said the fallen officer had participated in the department’s Explorer program in his teenage years at the same station.
To me, it is typical of SOME of the interactions that occur across the country between the news media and public safety officials. It's an interesting follow-up to my posting last week that looked at the confrontation last December between a Connecticut State trooper and a photographer at the scene of a fatal crash and vehicle fire.
I am very aware we only have one side of this story and we should always be cautious when drawing conclusions. But there are a few things that are clearly said by the sheriff's deputies, including supervisors, that don't need much interpretation and, to my knowledge, go beyond the powers this country gives to law enforcement. These include: ordering a photographer not to take pictures from a certain vantage point because the homeowners don't want their houses shot; deciding when a videographer can and can't roll his camera; telling a photographer he can't take pictures of police officers doing their jobs.
While, in general, I have absolute respect for the job police officers and others in public safety do, I admit my bias in these issues. As a news reporter I was told by many people, including law enforcement, that I couldn't take pictures of something that was in public view while standing in a public place. My bias is that I am very much pro-First Amendment and know that, in the United States, decisions like those aren't to be left in the hands of police officers, firefighters or any other government official. But there are many other countries where people in uniform do make those choices for you.
That said, when asked to make sure that the images of witnesses or undercover officers whose safety may be in jeopardy not be shown, I always cooperated by shooting or editing around those images. Also, when given a legitimate explanation by law enforcement that a case would be jeopardized by information or images being released, my bosses and I cooperated. I saw similar cooperation by the other TV stations in Washington.
But orders to shut off our cameras in a public place were almost always ignored. Often we did that for our own protection. In one case the video evidence showed a police officer was not telling the truth when my colleague, photographer Frank McDermott, was arrested at the scene of a drowning at a Virginia hotel many years ago. When the officer's supervisors saw the video (it was still rolling when the police officer placed the camera in the trunk of the police car following Frank's arrest), the charges were suddenly dropped and the officer found himself in quite a bit of trouble.
Let me close with some interesting words a Statter911.com reader wrote in a comment a few days back about the Connecticut video from December:
I don't like the media, but will defend it just as I will the 2nd Amendment. I still think the trooper was flat out wrong, as were the comments that attempted to justify his actions.
There's a reason the first amendment is first and is followed by the second. If gov't attempts to eliminate the freedom of speech, press, to gather, etc, then we have to fall back on our second amendment rights.
On Thursday, I posted extensive raw video from a tragic fire in Moscow that occurred on October 2, 2007. It was under the headline, "Warning: Videos titled 'Fire with Chaos in Moscow' are quite graphic". The two clips were shot by someone riding with one of the first group of what appear to be firefighters as they arrive on the scene of a burning office building. Bodies are already on the ground and many others are jumping to flee a fire on the fourth floor of the five story building. The fire left nine people (described as students) dead and almost 50 injured.
So far I've received 23 comments. Each describes the same thoughts I had while viewing this very difficult video. These include how lucky we are to have the level of fire protection we do in the U.S. and that this video should be required viewing for any political leader who thinks it is okay to gut fire protection standards (including sprinklers) and funding for fire departments. Others commented on the bravery and ingenuity of the bystanders who worked so hard to save the lives of others. Essentially, readers got out of this what I hoped they would.
But I am surprised by what is missing from the comments. This video showed some people dying. Others as they were critically injured. We are not talking about a video shot at a vantage point some distance from the scene. This is up close and personal. It's quite graphic. There is no electronic masking of the faces or sheets over bodies.
Despite the raw and graphic nature of the clips no one has complained. No STATter911.com readers blasted me for posting the video. No one criticized the photographer for shooting it.
There are some very good arguments for not showing this video. They all raced through my mind as I debated whether to hit the publish button. After posting it, I prepared for the nastygrams. They never arrived.
Contrast this reaction to the outrage directed at a videographer from Connecticut and at me after I posted his video of a fatal crash and car fire on I-95 last December. In that video there's no victim, no body, no one in their final moments on this earth, no blood and no gore. It was just a burning car with firefighters and police doing their jobs at the scene.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, please take a moment to watch the video and review some of the comments. You will find that many people believe the man who shot the burning car is the lowest of the low. Others had a similar opinion of me for posting it and defending the photographer. There are close to 100 comments. The large majority of them extremely negative because someone dared to shoot a burning car where a woman died. The common theme is that we have no right to intrude on someone's final moments by taking pictures of a vehicle in flames. There are also another 50 or 60 comments from me where I reply and challenge each of the critics.
So how does a video with no graphic content generate such outrage, while no one seems to care about a video with close-ups of people taking their dying breaths?
If you read my replies to the comments about the car fire video you'll find the answers. They explain why I really shouldn't be surprised about the lack of passion over the Moscow video.
One of the most significant reasons is this. There is an authority figure in the form of a Connecticut State Trooper in the car fire video. Without warning, he confronts the freelance news photographer, orders him to shut off his camera and leave the scene. The trooper is angry and questions the ethics of the videographer. The cameraman didn't break any laws. He was standing with the general public at a respectable distance, out of the way of first responders. People naturally side with law enforcement, whether the officer is right or wrong. It's human.
But there is something bigger than law enforcement at play here. It's hatred of the press.
Read the comments closely and you'll find the real agenda. People who stand up for our country and its Constitution are willing to gut the First Amendment. Anything goes. Just stop those awful press people from shooting pictures of victims.
Some readers think cameras should be banned from scenes where there is even the potential for victims. Others want police officers and firefighters to be the gatekeepers. They would give first responders the power to decide when and if it is okay to take pictures.
As for me, I am standing firmly by the idea that the founders of our nation didn't want the decision of what can and can't be published left in the hands of armed and uniformed agents of our government.
There may be another factor at work here. The office building fire is in a foreign land and doesn't involve Americans. It's possible that plays into this. I've seen it happen in TV newsrooms where management would never show an uncovered body from a local disaster, but would frequently broadcast bodies from catastrophes overseas.
But I think the foreign factor is minor compared to a law officer putting a member of the press in his place. Without that confrontation no one is talking about the rights of victims or what a ghoul the photographer is.
I don't just base my theories on the Moscow video. Since the December incident in Connecticut I have posted many pictures and videos showing active scenes where people have died. There have been no complaints. They include the picture below that I posted exactly one week after the I-95 story. It doesn't show a burning car that a woman had been removed from before the image was shot. It shows a burning house with six people still inside. All died. It wasn't shot by a member of the press. It was shot by a firefighter. And guess what? There was no outrage.
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:
This, to me, is quite interesting and I am not sure what to make of it. In the WUSA9.com report above by Surae Chinn is a brief video by a motorist who happened upon a burning tractor-trailer on the Capital Beltway in Forestville, Maryland (I-95 South at D’Arcy Road in Prince George’s County). The person who shot the video is in a vehicle returning from the University of Maryland Baltimore County around 11:00 last night. The fire was the result of a three vehicle crash that left the truck driver dead on the scene.
What I find fascinating (and I know I shouldn’t be surprised) is, looking at the raw video, the people in the car with the camera see the fire under the bridge ahead, drive past six police vehicles on the right side of the road (by my count) and then continue under the burning overpass anyway so they can get their pictures and get where they are going.
Obviously, we don’t know how long the police had been on the scene at the time this video was taken and what they were up against. I imagine a priority would soon be to keep others out of harm’s way (particularly those who aren’t thinking clearly enough to do it themselves).
The fire extended from the truck cab to the underside of the bridge. Sheets of plywood and wooden supports had been previously installed on the underside of the bridge to prevent crumbling concrete to fall onto the Beltway. Brush fires ignited and travelled up the embankments towards Darcy Road. Firefighters were successful in stopping the fire extension into the trailer portion of the 18-wheeler. The trailer was about 25% loaded with bags of sugar.
Incident commanders immediately requested additional resources to the Beltway and to Darcy Road to deal with the fire. A total of 60 firefighters and medics were on the scene on-board 10 pieces of apparatus and numerous command and support vehicles. Both loops of the Beltway and Darcy Road were shut down while the fire was being extinguished which required about 45 minutes.
Firefighters have discovered the body of a man after battling a house fire in Oxon Hill and overcoming complications from this morning’s massive water main break.
Mark Brady, spokesman for Prince George’s County Fire and EMS, says firefighters were called to a the fire at 305 Corla Drive around 8:20 a.m. Firefighters arriving on scene found low water pressure in the area when they went to work to put out the flames.
Brady says two extra tankers were automatically dispatched to the fire scene because of the potential for water pressure problems caused by a break in a 54 inch water main that serves areas south of Central Avenue.
Brady says extra tankers were moved into areas affected by the water main break earlier this morning. Each tanker carries 2,000 gallons of water. Each fire engine also carries 500 gallons of water, which the responding crews used to knock out most of the flames.
Right now firefighters are hitting hot spots using water from the extra tankers called to the scene.
The fire victim has not yet been identified. Brady says the fire victim was mobility challenged.
Glenn Usdin’s FireTruckBlog.com has what is really the story of the weekend. Stratford, Connecticut’s Engine 1 and Engine 5 may be down for the count but a half-dozen firefighters are walking around. The rigs were positioned to protect the crews working a crash on I-95 Friday evening. And protect they did, as two tractor-trailer drivers lost control on the snowy highway. Click here for the details and links to pictures.
I've had a busy few days trying to answer every critical comment about my posting of the video below. It's the confrontation between a Connecticut State Police trooper and a news photographer that occurred a week ago along I-95 in Fairfield, Connecticut . So far there are 87 comments from readers plus 53 responses from me. At some point soon, after my head stops swimming, I am going to digest my thoughts and write a follow-up column or two about the conversations I've had with the readers of STATter911.com.
My belief, based on what I know about such things, is that a trooper or any other first responder or agent of our government does not have the legal right to tell a citizen or the press what they can and can't shoot in a public place or decide for us what is newsworthy. Based on the comments, those who believe that are in the minority (or maybe I am just part of a silent majority and don't know it?).
One person who thinks I'm right is Dave Levy. I have known Dave since he was a young teenager. I was a friend of his father, the late Sheldon Levy. Sheldon was a long time photojournalist who started Action Movie News in New York before coming to Washington and eventually working with me at Channel 9 beginning in the mid-1980s. Sheldon was also a chief officer at the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.
Dave was a volunteer firefighter for 10-years in Prince George's County. He is now a corporate lawyer (and fire buff) in Chicago. He makes some interesting points in this column.
I know. I know. Save your venom. Yes, I'm very aware that for many of you the only other people you hold in as low esteem as journalists (or a former one like me) are lawyers. That's a given. Let's agree on that now. So, when you comment on what he has to say, just dispute or support David's facts, his logic or his reasoning. We know we are scum to some of you and we accept that.
If you would like for STATter911.com to consider publishing your views on this or other topics please contact me at email@example.com.
A Few Thoughts on Freedom of the Press, Emergency Services, and a Pissed Off Trooper
by Dave Levy
The debate about the Connecticut state trooper tantrum followed a familiar path: Cameraman sets up his equipment at an accident scene. Trooper goes berserk in front of the camera. The footage is posted to the Internet. Some people are upset with the trooper. Others are upset with the cameraman. Debate ensues.
From what I can tell from the comments, the debate followed a path that we've all seen play out once or twice before. Although the comments bore a sense of familiarity, however, there were three interesting points lurking under the surface. The first was a delicious irony, the second was a lesson for the present, and the third was a lesson for the future.
Let's start with the delicious irony. A few months back, this blog posted a video in which a police officer arrested an on-duty fire captain for refusing to reposition a rig. Another post contained a video which showed a police officer choking a paramedic while a heart patient sat in the back of the rig. In each case, a police officer was the aggressor, a member of the fire service was the victim, and the best piece of evidence was provided by a well-placed video camera. In each case, the camera was critical to the fire service's side of the story simply because the police officer's conduct was so over-the-top that any written account of the incident would lack believability. From what I remember, no one in the fire service voiced loud objection to the idea that someone might record a police officer mistreating a member of the fire service.
Before proceeding to the lesson for the present, let me ask a question: In the two examples above, would you feel better if we lived in a country where a police officer could assault a firefighter in public and then use his police power — the power of the government — to prevent a civilian from photographing the event? If you answered "yes," please stop reading, as there is no hope for you. If you answered "no," then you might be interested in what I think is the lesson for the present:
As a firefighter, PM, or police officer, you become an agent of the government from the moment your shift starts until the moment your shift ends.
Being an agent of the government provides a tremendous amount of power. People have to get out your way when you're en route to a call. You're allowed to step behind the yellow tape. You're allowed to break windows and knock down doors. And if someone interferes with your work, they can end up in handcuffs.
Although the government can only work through its agents, and those agents are human beings, those human beings are not allowed to be emotional and be agents of the government at the same time. In other words, if you're going to be an agent of the government, you have to keep your emotions in check, at least when you're in public.
This brings us to the unfortunate incident involving the state trooper. Simply put, however good the trooper's intentions were, an agent of the government (the trooper) does not have the Constitutional power to tell a private citizen (the cameraman) who is standing on a public street what he can and cannot photograph. That is the heart of the First Amendment. It is what separates the United States government from the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian governments. Our government already exercises too much control over our day-to-day affairs. Giving government agents the right to tell a private citizen who is standing on a public street what types of newsworthy events – whether a car accident or a police officer choking a medic or locking up a fire captain — can and cannot be photographed should make peoples' hair stand on end. If you don't believe me, then visit one of the Chinese state-run news outlets – such as http://www.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/index.htm — and take a good long look at what the news looks like when the government gets to decide what its people can and cannot see. I don't read the Chinese news very often, but when I do, I count my lucky stars that I was born an American.
All of this leads to what I think is the lesson for the future: What do you do if you're on a call and a photographer is doing something that is lawful but offensive? As I see it, you have three options:
OPTION 1: You can obstruct the photographer's view by parking a rig or constructing a tarp between the camera and the part of the scene that is giving you trouble. The photographer can still get a picture that helps document the scene, the public gets to know what's going on, and you (the agent of the government) are happy. (As an aside, this strategy does not work well when someone is trying to conceal misconduct. If the police had tried this in the incidents that I used in my example, the cover up would have been worse than the underlying misconduct, and the s*** would have really hit the fan. The extent to which a free press can curb government abuse is amazing.)
OPTION 2: You can move the yellow tape back and keep ALL civilians (not just the media) behind the tape. This can be difficult at times, but is usually do-able.
OPTION 3: You can wait until you're off duty and then express your views in whatever way you see fit (consistent with other legal requirements). For example, you can: (i) start your own anti-media blog (I'm sure Statter will post a link); (ii) post an anti-media YouTube rant and hope it goes viral; (iii) complain to the TV station, picket in front of the TV station, etc. You can even make it your business to buff calls in your off-duty time and stand in front of any cameraman who is taking pictures that you might find offensive. This is a free country, and there is absolutely no crime in that, so long as you do it in your personal capacity and not in your capacity as a government agent.
I hesitate to make this statement in front of a crowd like this, but it seems appropriate to note that freedom is so incredibly precious precisely because it is so incredibly costly in every measurable way. That is what led Winston Churchill to quip that democracy is the worst political system on the planet, except for all the others. Whether you like it or not, our system of freedom relies on a number of key institutions, one of which is a free press.
I have often said it is never a real good idea to confront someone who has a video camera in hand. Especially these days. The video above is an excerpt from the longer video below and illustrates my point.
From the :47 video above you don't get much context about what set off this confrontation. But the 2:54 video below seems to indicate not all that much. Obviously there may be something even earlier that we are missing.
I am really not sure what there is to gain here for the Connecticut State Police. If troopers find it necessary to clear news photographers to secure evidence or for safety reasons, isn't there a better way to do it?
You personally may not like the idea of a free press, but I am reasonably certain that wearing a uniform in our country doesn't make you the arbiter of what is okay to shoot and what isn't. I have a recollection of learning that in grade school, but it is so long ago and so much has happened since then that I could be wrong. If it has changed, please forward me the updates that I've missed. I really have some catching up to do.
No matter what else happened before or after this video, we are left with these images on YouTube and a major newspaper's web site. Trying to step back and be objective in this case (some may question if I can considering my checkered past as a TV reporter), this is how I assess the video:
A photographer doing his job in an apparently professional manner. He keeps his distance. Does not appear to be in a particularly dangerous spot and does not interfere with the important operation at hand. The trooper, on the other hand, appears to confront the photographer and the public by losing his cool in a very unprofessional manner.
It's just a reminder that the person with the camera usually wins in these situations and your organization's image is the loser.
I will leave you with this question that was posted with the YouTube video. It's probably a good one to think about: "If the trooper acted this way knowing the camera was rolling how does he act when no cameras are around???"
But then again, maybe he was just having a bad day.
Bullets as a forcible entry tool? That was the choice a Boca Raton, Florida police officer made last night on I-95 near the Spanish River Boulevard overpass. Officer Jimmy Jalil Jr. pulled up to the scene of an SUV that crashed and caught fire around 8:00 PM. Other motorists, including a retired firefighter, were already trying to pull a woman trapped in the front passenger seat to safety. But they couldn’t get in. Here’s the rest of the story from WPEC-TV:
Jalil grabbed a fire extinguisher from his car’s trunk and gave it to a retired firefighter who stopped to help, said Mark Economou, Boca Raton police spokesman. The extinguisher was unable to douse the flames and it wouldn’t break the windows either.
Jalil ordered everyone back from the vehicle and told the trapped woman to move as far away from the window as possible. Jalil fired two shots into a rear passenger window to break it and used his baton to clear the glass from the window, pulling the woman’s limp body from the vehicle.
The woman, Brianna Motley, survived and is reported in fair condition. The driver was killed. Details on other possible victims wasn’t immediately available. Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
For the second time this year an investigation has been started into why a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department crew pronounced a person dead who was still alive. This afternoon PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady released a statement confirming that two career paramedics assigned to Medic 846 (Largo) have been placed on limited public contact status after the crew’s actions at a home in the 8600 block of Glenarden Parkway in Glenarden “resulted in a delay of care”.
According to Brady, the call came in around noon today from the Glenarden Police Department indicating there was a possible dead man inside the home. Brady said the medic crew arrived on the scene within four minutes and concurred with police the elderly man was dead.
According to the press release, “At about 1:30 PM, an official from the County Police Department’s Forensic Services summoned the Fire/EMS Department to return to the scene as the adult male was displaying signs that he was alive. A different EMS unit arrived shortly thereafter and transported the patient to an area hospital.”
At last word the man was still alive.
Sources not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation say it is being investigated why the crew spent what appeared to be little time in their initial assessment of the patient, and possibly didn’t follow state protocols for determining if a person is dead. Other sources indicate there is a question whether the medics just took the word of the police officers and possibly never went into the room with the patient. One of the paramedics is described as “seasoned” while the other more recently became a medic.
The medical protocol issues will be covered in what the department calls a quality assurance review. According to Brady, the medics have already been interviewed by PGFD’s medical director.
The press release indicates there is a also a review by the Office of Professional Standards. That review will cover whether general orders and standard operating procedures were followed.
Brady says, “Actions of personnel are taken very seriously by the Fire/EMS Department. We will ensure a complete and through review and if warranted take whatever corrective action is called for to avoid any reoccurrence.”
This is the second such incident for PGFD in a little more than two months. STATter911.com reported that on January 24 a man whose vehicle crashed and burned on I-95 in Laurel was initially pronounced dead on the scene. As crews helped police remove the body a short time later, it was determined the man was alive.
A quality review was also initiated in that case. While Mark Brady says that state law requires those reviews to be confidential, he can confirm a volunteer from Station 849 (Laurel Rescue Squad) received remedial training following the I-95 incident.
Brady tells STATter911.com that there were no inquiries from reporters about today’s incident. Prince George’s County officials say they released the information in an effort to be transparent about issues involving the service the department provides.
A 26-year-old man trapped inside his burning Cadillac that had run into the back of another vehicle on I-95 in Laurel is being treated for critical injuries despite initially being declared dead on the scene. STATter911.com has learned firefighters from Prince George’s County, Maryland discovered the man was breathing while untangling his body from the wreckage of the burned out car. The vehicle had slammed against trees in the median strip near Route 198.
When Prince George’s County firefighters extinguished the fire around 2:30 Sunday morning the man was declared a “Priority 4″. Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Chief Spokesman Mark Brady confirms this in a statement provided to STATter911.com, saying, “A preliminary patient assessment was made soon after the fire was extinguished, while the victim was still trapped within the wreckage, that he was priority 4 (deceased).”
On the emergency radio traffic from the incident, the incident commander tells a dispatcher about the “Priority 4″ at 2:39 AM, 25 minutes after the incident was dispatced and 16 minutes after the first firefighters arrived on the scene.
Brady also confirms at 2:47 AM firefighters were asked by Maryland State Police to help in the removal of the body. About a minute later firefighters determined the man was still breathing.
In the radio traffic from the incident, a firefighter and the “South Side Command” have the following conversation:
Unidentified Firefighter: “We believe the patient is breathing we are yanking him out and bringing him up.”
South Side Command: “You say the patient is breathing?”
Unidentified Firefighter: “We believe so.”
South Side Command: “Okay.”
The injured man, whose identity has not been released, was removed from the car and taken to a burn unit under the care of paramedics. At last word from police, he was being treated for life-threatening burns and other injuries.
Spokesman Brady confirms that a review is underway by the department’s EMS Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement Program to determine what procedures were used to initially determine the man had expired. Brady said in his statement, “The Q&A program provides both a forum for continuous system improvement and a means to review significant events and is implemented under the auspices of the EMS Jurisdictional Program Medical Director.”
Brady also points out, “The preliminary patient assessment was made under extremely challenging and less then ideal conditions.”
A second vehicle involved in the crash was handled by a separate “North Side Command”. Firefighters removed a woman who was trapped in an overturned SUV that had been struck by the Cadillac. That vehicle was not on fire. Police report the 46-year-old woman was treated and released at a local hospital.
Here is a timeline of the incident based on information provided by PGFD and times listed in the radio traffic:
2:14 – Call dispatched.
2:23 – First PGFD units report on the scene.
2:39 – South Side Command reports they have a “Priority 4″.
2:47 – South Side Command reports they have been requested by Maryland State Police to extricate “the deceased”.
2:48 - Firefighters report they believe the patient is breathing.
2:49 – Medic 715 from Montgomery County is dispatched to assist with the now breathing patient.
2:56 – Landing site being set up for helicopter.
3:04 – Patient transported by ground to burn unit.
Some light being shed in Bourne: The police chief now finally says Lt. Kelli Weeks, seen in a CapeCodOnline photo, was spotted at a drug surveillance site. But there is conflicting information about whether there was ever a criminal probe of the former charity calendar Ms. October 2008. There is also new information on Lt. Weeks' husband. Deputy Chief Paul Weeks has now been taken off of full duty status and is on administrative leave pending a preliminary hearing on a rape charge. Click the image for the latest from the Bourne Fire Department.
DC fire investigators get blasted by the city’s own lawyers: The latest people taking a shot at the DC Fire & EMS Department are the lawyers whose job it is to defend the department in a lawsuit over the April, 2007 fire at the Georgetown Library. Washington City Paper’s Jason Cherkis has the emails from the Office of the Attorney General wondering why fire investigators can’t produce the notebooks and other documents that have long been requested in the case. In one email, a city attorney writes, “This is a 13+million dollar law suit. Enough for DC to hire many firefighters, or lawyers for that matter (or avoid layoffs or furloughs). Is there nothing that can be done to get this information?”
Another city lawyer wrote, after hearing that notebooks don’t exist, “If indeed there are no notes or diagrams, both for the purpose of trial preparation and to respond to the motions for sanctions, can the investigators explain why they did not follow the national standards? Is it that they weren’t trained on these standards, or they forgot, etc.?”
Canary in a coal mine: The sensitivity of birds to carbon monoxide is why canaries were used as crude CO alarms in mines. It is apparently why 23 out of 24 birds in a Rockville, Maryland house died during a fire early yesterday morning. Click here to read and watch the story.
Fire chief accused of fondling police dispatcher gets pension: Former Truro, Massachusetts fire chief E. Thomas Prada resigned in March, 2008 shortly after he was accused of grabbing the breasts of an on-duty police dispatcher. Prada had been the part-time chief for 20-years and a call firefighter with the department for 49-years. A retirement board ruling now allows Prada to keep his pension. Read more.
At 4:00 this morning, firefighters in Frederick County, Maryland responded to the Exxon on Route 85 near I-270 and found a vehicle, fuel pump and a man on fire. Click the image to read the story from WUSA9.com.
Almost 40-year battle over LODD: An interesting story how a 26-year-old Santa Barbara County firefighter collapsed and died in 1970. His widow has now gone to court to in an effort to reverse the retirement board’s ruling that the death was not service related, even though Mark Common’s name is on the California Firefighters Memorial.
Despite strong firefighter opposition, Menino gets record 5th term in Boston: Read the details. Union president vows to continue the fight. Click here.
Three cops among seven injured in house fire: Five people were helped from the burning home in Lynn, Massachusetts Tuesday night. Read the story. Watch the story.
Four firefighters hurt at garage fire: A variety of injuries as fire spread to two garages in Pelham, New York. Here’s the story.
This house in Modesto, California was raided last week because of a pot growing operation. Now the place has been torched. Click the image to read and watch the story.
Mayor outlines plan to pay back OT to firefighters: Louisville’s mayor explains how he is coming up with the $45 million to settle that years long suit over firefighter’s overtime. It is expected that 800 former and current firefighters will share in the money with pay-outs ranging from $100 to $120,000. Read more.
L.A. geyser: No fire engines disappearing on this one, but nice pictures of a water main putting on a show. Click here.
A call for 9-11 video: Greg Jacobs with Siskel/Jacobs Productions has asked me to pass along this request for video-
The producers of the Emmy-winning documentary 102 Minutes That Changed America are seeking amateur and professional video from 9/11 in and around Washington, D.C. for a forthcoming National Geographic Channel documentary. That includes footage of buildings being evacuated, man-on-the-street conversations, home movies of people responding to the news, saved phone messages, etc.—anything that helps illustrate not just what happened, but how the day felt. If you have or know of any such material, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fiery truck crash on I-95: Click here for details of an overnight wreck in Fairfax County Virginia near the Lorton exit. Video shot by Rob Barrett.