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.
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Injured PGFD firefighters honored by MD Rep. Donna Edwards. Kevin O’Toole returns to Bladensburg firehouse.4 comments
PGFD’s Truck 809 takes Sgt. Kevin O’Toole back to Bladensburg firehouse. Maryland firefighter was in burn unit for 55 days.4 comments
From PGFD’s Chief Spokesman Mark Brady:
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.
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Bladensburg VFD’s Kevin O’Toole to be released from burn unit this afternoon. Injured in Prince George’s County, MD house fire almost two-months-ago.2 comments
Bladensburg’s Sgt. Kevin O’Toole, on the left, with Firefighter Ethan Sorrell.
Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Mark Brady reports on his blog that Bladensburg VFD’s Sgt. Kevin O’Toole, burned in a fire in Riverdale, is expected to be released from the Medstar Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center this afternoon:
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.
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UPDATED: PGFD says fire that hurt seven firefighters was arson. New picture from burn unit of Bladensburg VFD’s Kevin O’Toole.2 comments
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.
Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Ethan Sorrell released from hospital. Firefighter Kevin O’Toole remains in burn unit. PGFD outlines investigation of fire that injured seven firefighters.2 comments
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.
UPDATED: Bladensburg Firefighter Ethan Sorrell now breathing on his own. Tube removed. Check out work of DC Firefighters Burn Foundation.4 comments
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.
UPDATED – Latest on PGFD injured firefighters: Bladensburg firefighters have a brief visit with each other. Parents meet the press. Interviews with firefighters who were inside home.9 comments
In a picture taken by PGFD Chief Marc Bashoor, Firefighter Ethan Sorrell (on the right) visits the room of Firefighter Kevin O'Toole.
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.
Word from the Medstar Burn Unit of the Washington Hospital Center is that Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Ethan Sorrell and Firefighter Kevin O'Toole remain in critical but stable condition. Sorrell has respiratory burns and O'Toole has second and third degree burns over 40% of his body.
As we reported earlier, O'Toole and Sorrell both requested that the annual Bladensburg VFD banquet on Saturday continue as planned. We are told that Firefighter O'Toole was able to visit the event via Skype.
Riverdale VFD Firefighter Michael McClary went home Saturday afternoon. The picture above and the information below is from the Riverdale VFD website:
Firefighter Michael McClary was released from the hospital this afternoon. He is still suffering from his injuries sustained when crewmembers were forced to make a hasty retreat from a house fire at 6404 57th Ave. in Riverdale Heights when fire conditions coupled with high wind gusts caused fire to envelop the crews from E807B and TK809 upon entry to the house. It is believed that another firefighter fell on top of FF McClary, who suffered bruised ribs and cartilage damage.
PGFD Chief Mark Bashoor and Bladensburg Chief Randy Kuenzli are interviewed in the TV stories on this page about the firefighters and the fire on Friday evening on 57th Avenue.
Strong winds were gusting out of the west at the time — “up to 40, 45 mph,” said the chief. They were blowing directly at — and into — the burning basement, which had a west-facing door.
“As soon as the guys opened the front door and advanced, it blew from the basement, up the steps and right out the front door,” Bashoor said. “It was like a blowtorch coming up the steps and out the door.”
The entire incident — “from the time they were in the door until they were burned” — took eight seconds, the chief said.
The firefighters inside the house “did everything they were trained to do,” he said, but they were essentially defenseless.
“Without that wind, the hot air and gases would have been venting out of the rear of the house,” he said. “The current of air essentially produced a chimney right up the steps and out the front door.”
Latest from PGFD: Bladensburg VFD Firefighters Ethan Sorrell & Kevin O’Toole both in critical condition with burns.40 comments
Photo by Billy McNeel.
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.
From PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady at 9:30 AM:
Three firefighters remain hospitalized at the Washington Hospital Center after sustaining injuries battling a house fire in Riverdale on Friday evening.
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.