Units arrived on scene to find a 2 story single family home with heavy fire showing from the garage area. Units on the scene were Engine 806(St.Josephs), Engine 818(Glenndale), Engine 833(Kentland), Engine 846(Kentland), Tower 843, Rescue Engine 833 and Quint 838(Chapel Oaks). Several command officers including the Southern Division Chief (Chief 833 Kelleher with command) were on the scene.
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Yes, the headline is correct. I am returning to Oxon Hill, Maryland for this holiday, the place where I was a volunteer firefighter back in the 70s (despite what THE Fire Cricket says). I will also be working with PGFD, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. Thankfully though, the citizens of the area will not be relying on this fat, out of shape specimen to fight fires and save lives (hopefully the only wet stuff on the red stuff I will be doing is downing something cool to put out the fire in my belly after eating some traditional food for the holiday).
Actually, I will be performing. I am sure most of you don’t know this but I’m an international recording artist. Ten-years-ago I narrated a recording by the London Symphony Orchestra called “Hosedown”. Composed by Morton Gould in honor of his volunteer firefighter grandson, it’s a musical piece for fire trucks and orchestra. The recording was done at Abbey Road Studios (unfortunately my part was done here, though I was invited to the UK ).
For those who are doubting what I am telling you (and I don’t blame you), here’s a link to excerpts from the recording. You will hear some of my narration in the track titled “Prologue”. You will also note that my performance is really the “B” side of the record. The “A” side is a narration of a piece titled “And The President Said” by Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post executive editor of the Watergate era.
So you are probably asking what’s the connection to Oxon Hill and PGFD today. Hold on, it’s coming.
The man who put this recording together and conducted the orchestra is Jeffrey Silbershlag. Jeff is a brilliant musician who is artistic director and head of music performance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Jeff also happened to be in band with me at Sudbrook Jr. High School and Pikesville Sr. High School in Baltimore County. So, the choice of me as narrator was not based on talent alone (or at all). Jeff, who chased fires with me as a teenager back in the days when the old warehouses were burning prior to the revitalization of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, asked me to narrate “Hosedown” at the college as part of the annual River Concert Series a decade ago (I did such an underwhelming job he invited to be part of the recording).
Today, as part of the Pops on the Potomac series at National Harbor, Jeff, Dave and the wonderful Chesapeake Orchestra will once again perform “Hosedown” (if the weather holds out). Joining us will be the crew from PGFD’s Fireboat 858 (the Lawrence Woltz). If you are in the area please come on down (if you are a firefighter and have your gear with you we will make you part of the act … just find me before the performance). It should be fun. There will also be a lot more music, including jazz vocalist Hilary Kole singing songs from the American Songbook and, of course, “Stars and Stripes Forever”.
This should be a memorable Independence Day for me. As I’ve done in years past, I am recycling a column (below) and showing some videos from a previous memorable fire service related Independence Day.
Enjoy the holiday. Remember what it’s about. Keep in mind all those who fought for our freedoms (including that pesky First Amendment thingy) and all of those who protect us. Stay safe.
On previous July 4ths I have told you about my 1993 trip to New York to see FDNY in action. Two videos from that trip with fire buff extraordinaire Vito Maggiolo are on this page.
One of the videos (above) is of a most unusual experience, the crash of a blimp. Here’s what I wrote about that in 2007 (don’t you love it when an ego driven blogger quotes himself?):
Independence Day in 1993 was one of the stranger days of my life. I had gone with my friend Vito Maggiolo to New York to experience July 4th, usually the busiest day of the year for FDNY.
In the afternoon we were visiting one of Vito’s friends at Manhattan Fire Alarm in Central Park.
As we were sitting around chatting, the phones suddenly began ringing. We were hearing bits and pieces of only one side of the conversation. But the call takers were asking questions with surprised looks on their faces. We heard: “A what?”; “Where”?; “It’s deflating?”; “Over the Hudson?”.
Vito and I raced south and then to the west toward the Hudson River. We arrived just after the first firefighters and saw Pizza Hut’s Bigfoot Pizza Blimp draped over the side of an apartment building. We watched as the two injured crew members were brought down from the roof.
The other video (above) is more relevant to today’s column. It gives you a glimpse of Brooklyn at a time when citizens with massive amounts of fireworks helped make Independence Day the busiest day of the year for FDNY.
Here is what I wrote four years ago about my 1993 experience:
It seemed as if fireworks were going off on every street. Barrels of fireworks burned in the middle of many blocks. Bottle rockets struck our car. M-80s exploded in trash can after trash can. The radio blared with reports of neighbor’s homes set on fire by fireworks along with numerous reports of injured people.
On one hand it felt as if I had been transported to a war zone. I’ll admit, being new to this, it was a little scary. At the same time, it reminded me of something very beautiful — one of my favorite movies, Barry Levinson’s “Avalon”.
The scene of Russian immigrant Sam Krichinsky arriving in Baltimore on July 4th is repeated throughout the film. As he walks under exploding fireworks all around him, this is the voice-over dialogue:
I came to America in 1914–by way of Philadelphia. That’s where I got off the boat. And then I came to Baltimore. It was the most beautiful place you ever seen in your life. There were lights everywhere! What lights they had! It was a celebration of lights! I thought they were for me, Sam, who was in America. Sam was in America! I know what holiday it was, but there were lights. And I walked under them. The sky exploded, people cheered, there were fireworks! What welcome it was, what a welcome!
Kevin O’Toole says he has never been more happy to be in a firehouse than he was Tuesday night. And when you learn about his story, you’ll understand why.
It was about seven-thirty at night back on February 24th, an especially windy night in Prince George’s County, when a fire broke out in a two-story house in Riverdale. About a dozen firefighters were battling the blaze when, suddenly, an especially strong gust of wind created a fireball inside the house, injuring all seven firefighters who were on the first floor, including Kevin O’Toole.
The injured firefighters were all taken to the hospital. Six of them were released within a few days, but O’Toole was hospitalized for eight weeks with burns over fifty percent of his body, before going back to his parents’ house on Long Island to continue his recovery.
“You have to remember that your hands aren’t as good as they used to be,” O’Toole said.
On Tuesday, he made his first trip back to his Bladensburg firehouse, where he and a few of the other firefighters injured that February night were honored by Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
The 21-year-old O’Toole, who just graduated from community college, says he’s now considering becoming a professional firefighter. When asked if the fire in Riverdale had make him think twice about running into a burning building again, he paused, but for just a second.
“There are things that people need to do, and I still feel the calling to do that,” O’Toole said.
Just before 2:00 am, Wednesday, June 6, firefighters from the Bladensburg area were alerted to a house fire in the 4800 block of 48th Avenue. Fire/EMS units arrived to find fire showing from the attic of the 1 ½ story single family home. The fire was quickly contained and extinguished. The fire was caused by a faulty ventilation pipe from the cooking area. Fire loss is estimated at $70,000.
The eight occupants are displaced, 3 adults and 5 children, and are being assisted by the County Citizen Services Unit and the American Rd Cross. No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.
A press conference with just about every print, television and radio media outlet in the Washington-Baltimore Region present to document this important day, Volunteer Sergeant Kevin O’Toole stepped outside of the hospital for the first time since he was admitted 55 days ago. A significant day in Kevin’s recovery; being discharged from the hospital and starting the next phase as an out patient for the next several months.
Kevin O’Toole, 21 years of age, has been hospitalized since he sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns while battling a Riverdale house fire on February 24. At about 1:30 pm, Kevin was brought from the Burn Unit of Medstar Washington Hospital Center downstairs where he stepped out of the wheelchair. He walked gingerly with his parents, Jeff and Jane O’Toole, Bladensburg Fire Chief Randy Kuenzil and Jason Woods from the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. He greeted fellow members as they stood by Truck 809 and then he made his way to the microphone. Sergeant O’Toole was very gracious in responding to questions about his injuries, recovery process and future plans. Volunteer Chief Kuenzil and Burn Foundation President Woods also provided comments concerning Kevin’s stay at the hospital and recovery.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor visited Kevin earlier in the day and wished him the best in his recovery process.
Kevin O’Toole boarded the front seat of Truck 809, the unit that brought him to the house fire where he was injured. Bladensburg’s ladder truck, 2 engines and 2 chiefs buggies departed the hospital en route back to the Fire/EMS Station. He was greeted at the station by a host of firefighters from Bladensburg and other surrounding stations. Kevin’s return now closes the operational aspect of the call now that everyone has gone home.
Kevin will join his parents as they travel back to Bethpage, New York in the morning. He will continue his out patient treatment and physical therapy in Bethpage.
Kevin O’Toole and his family have been told he should be discharged sometime between 1 pm and 2 pm. Kevin can be soft spoken and does not relish the media spotlight. He has agreed to make comments to the media after he leaves the hospital and before he boards Bladensburg Truck 809, the unit he was on the night of the fire, for a return trip home, the fire station, to ceremoniously close the incident.
Kevin will not address the incident itself and requests the media refrain from asking those questions. He will respond to questions about his injuries, treatment, support and immediate plans for the future
O’Toole was the most serviously injured of seven firefighters in the wind driven February 24 house fire on 57th Avenue.
Just before 2:30 am, Sunday, January 29, 2012, Firefighters fought a house fire that caused $300,000 in estimated fire loss. The fire at the 2-story single family home was caused accidentally and attributed to an electrical source. Fire/EMS arrived in the 8000 block of Wingate Drive in Glenn Dale and found a well-advanced fire on both floors of the structure. A Task Force was sounded bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene to help battle the blaze. It required about 30 minutes to knock down the majority of the fire and another 45 minutes to extinguish all the hot spots.
The County Citizen Services Unit was providing assistance to the occupants that will suffer long-term displacement.
A firefighter sustained a leg injury while she was battling the fire and was transported in “good” condition to a local hospital. No civilian injuries reported.
This morning the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation posted this picture and update on the Foundation's Facebook page with the latest on Bladensburg VFD's Firefighter Kevin O'Toole. They report that Firefighter O'Toole was up and around a bit today and will go for a second round of skin grafts tomorrow. As we reported late last night Firefighter Ethan Sorrell was brought home from the burn unit by Bladensburg's Truck 809 and is back with his family in North Carolina.
Photo by Billy McNeel of Firefighter Sorrell's radio on display at this afternoon's press conference.
At a press conference this afternoon, PGFD announced that an investigation shows the fire Friday night on 57th Avenue that injured seven firefighters was deliberately set.
Here's a press release from PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady:
A fire occurred on Friday, February 24, 2012, at 9:11 P.M., in which 7 firefighters were injured and treated at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Six of those injured have been released, with 1 remaining in the Burn Unit. A Press Conference was held at the Fire/EMS Departments Cranford-Graves Fire Services Building in Landover Hills. The purpose was to bring everyone up to date with the firefighter injuries and announce the cause and origin of the fire.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor was elated to announce that Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Fighter Ethan Sorrell has been released from the hospital. Ethan was released on Tuesday evening. He was injured in the fire on Friday evening, February 24, 2012. Bladensburg Volunteer Chief Randy Kuenzil informed Chief Bashoor that Sorrell will have a follow up appointment next week. Sorrell returned home with his parents to North Carolina for about a week or until his follow up visit next week.
Upon his return he will more than likely reside at the Bladensburg Fire/EMS Station and make follow-up medical appointments and spending most of his time at the Burn Unit with his fellow firefighter, Kevin O’Toole. He remains in "Critical" but "Stable" condition. Kevin is undergoing medical procedures and skin graph surgeries and is expected to remain in the Burn Unit for up six weeks.
Photo by PGFD's Mark Brady.
As with any fire of this magnitude, a complete and thorough investigation into the cause and origin is conducted. This particular investigation involved investigators from the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department’s Office of the Fire Marshal; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; County Police Department; and the State’s Attorney’s Office. Investigators have worked around the clock since the incident occurred to determine the cause and origin of the fire.
The investigative team has determined the fire that occurred at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale is the result of arson, the area of origin is the basement. The house next door, 6402 57th Avenue, where a previously unreported fire occurred on an earlier date, is also being investigated as arson. Investigators reached this conclusion based on evidence collected at the scene of both fires. Because this is an open and on-going criminal investigation, evidence cannot and will not be discussed.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, “We will leave no stone unturned. Every resource available to us will be used to find the person(s) responsible for setting this fire. Once the responsible person(s) have been identified, we will work with the State’s Attorney to ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
States Attorney Angela Alsobrooks spoke and stated, "I am impressed with the case that investigators have put together and agree with the Fire Chief in that we will prosecute the responsible person to the fullest extent of the Law."
In addition to criminal charges related to arson, there could be criminal charges stemming from the injuries to the firefighters.
We are asking for the community‘s involvement and assistance in helping to identify the person(s) responsible for setting these fires. If you have information about either of these incidents, call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). You may also send your tips, SECURELY and ANONYMOUSLY, via TEXT MESSAGE by typing "PGPD" plus your message, and sending it from your cell phone to "CRIMES" (274637). If your information leads the capture of any of these fugitives, you may be eligible for a CASH REWARD up to $1,000.
The Prince George’s County Arson Tip Line will also accept information at 301-77-ARSON, or email 77ARSON@co.pg.md.us.
This picture was posted to Facebook this evening by Bladensburg VFD Captain Kyle Schultz showing Firefighter Ethan Sorrell being released from the Medstar Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center. Sorrell was brought home on Truck 809, the rig that took him to the fire on 57th Avenue Friday night when he was burned.
Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Kevin O'Toole remains at the burn unit and is expected to do for some time due to burns over 40% of his body.
Earlier today PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady issued this press release outlining the three pronged investigation Chief Marc Bashoor has ordered looking into Friday night's fire that injured seven firefighters:
Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor has stated that he will ensure a thorough and complete investigation into the incident that resulted in seven firefighters being injured. On Friday evening, February 24, 2012, firefighters responded to 911 reports of a house fire at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale. Two of the injured firefighters remain hospitalized in the Burn Unit at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center.
In order to discover the chain of events and circumstances which contributed to the outcome of this incident, Fire Chief Bashoor has issued a high-priority directive for the Department to immediately embark on a thorough investigation which will involve three parallel, ongoing and interrelated disciplines:
• Determination of Cause and Origin – as is customarily conducted under the direction of our Office of the Fire Marshall.
• An Operational Review and After Action Report – Conducted under the direction of our Emergency Services Command.
• A Thorough Safety Audit of the Incident – by a Safety Investigation Team (SIT), this will be conducted under the direction of the Risk Management and Safety Office, by both internal and external partners that the Fire Chief will select.
Fire Chief Bashoor wrote to members of the Fire/EMS Department, "If we are to truly learn from this experience, we MUST first be honest with ourselves and honest and forthcoming with information that these teams will need."
It is important to note that all three Investigative Teams will be regularly communicating their progress. The SIT will be selected from both internal and external resources to assure independent verification of fact.
Bashoor stated. "It is my intent to leave no stone un-turned and no question un-asked as we seek to discover the contributing factors that precipitated this incident. As Fire Chief, I commit to you that each of these inquests will be open and honest. I further commit that the eventual findings will be promptly released in the form of a written After Action Report." He concluded, "This After Action Report will serve to benefit not only firefighters in Prince George's County but will be made available to all fire departments to assist them in avoiding similar circumstances."
An annoucemnt concernng the cause and origin of the fire is ecpected within the next 24 to 48 hours.
UPDATE: PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady who has been keeping us up to date on the injured firefighters has this report, received a little after 6:00 PM -
The injured firefighters, Ethan Sorrell and Kevin O'Toole, continue to show signs of progress each and every day. The volunteers firefighters are still in the Burn Unit ICE at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center.
Ethan had his breathing tube removed and is now breathing on his own. His spirits have increased as he was encouraged to walk the hallways and had the opportunity to spend time with some visitors.
Kevin had skin graph surgery performed on several of his burns today and we were told that it went well.
Both Ethan and Kevin are currently resting at the Doctors direction.
This picture and caption posted just before 4:00 PM on the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation Facebook page shows Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Ethan Sorrell surrounded by family after being taken off of a ventilator. Obviously a good sign that he is breathing on his own, but no official word on updates on Firefighter Sorrell's condition or the condition of Firefighter Kevin O'Toole.
It's a good time to tell you about the great work the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation does. The members of the Foundation are a constant presence whenever a firefighter shows up at the Medstar Burn Unit of the Washington Hospital Center. I have talked to many firefighters who have found themselves in the burn unit and each one and their families always mention the support provided by the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. Make sure you support them.
From the Foundation's website here is a description of what they do:
The D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization founded by active and retired Washington, D.C. Firefighters. The Foundation is dedicated to assisting in the recovery and rehabilitation of injured firefighters and burn patients in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. We support burn research, treatment, and rehabilitation programs at Washington Hospital Center as well as the Children's Burn Camp Program. Firefighters and members of the Burn Center have a special empathy for burn victims. No other group witnesses more of the devastation that fire wreaks on the human body and spirit.
Our board of directors is made up of active and retired D.C. firefighters and our membership consists of firefighters, medical professionals, burn survivors, and other interested volunteers from the community. All members of our organization serve on a voluntary basis.
Photos and information from PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady:
Parents of three volunteer firefighters injured in a house fire on Friday evening spoke to members of the media today to personally describe their sons medical status.
Parents of the three firefighters; McClary, Sorrell and O’Toole, County Fire Chief Bashoor and Bladensburg Volunteer Chief Randy Kuenzli all spoke.
The group took a moment from the Fourth Floor East Burn Unit at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center and spoke near the front entrance to the hospital.
The mother of Riverdale Volunteer Fire Fighter Michael McClary spoke on his behalf and explained that he had been released yesterday. Fire Fighter McClary suffered injuries to his ribs and burns to both hands. Cheryl McClary emotionally stated, “We are very thankful and our hearts are still with the ones that are still in hospital.”
Jeff and Jane O'Toole.
Vann and Kathy Sorrell of Buies Creek, North Carolina, and Jeff and Jane O’Toole of Bethpage, New York, each spoke with members of the media. The parents, no strangers to the fire service, each described their sons current medical status and spoke highly of the care they are receiving at the Burn Unit. They also spoke highly of the support system provided by members of the fire service and the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. Both injured firefighters remain in “Critical” and “Stable” condition. Their parents describe them as being in relatively good spirits and showing some signs of improvement. Each has a long road to recovery.
Vann and Kathy Sorrell.
Jeff O’Toole stated his son has at least 6 weeks in the Burn Unit with another 6 months of physical rehabilitation after that. Kevin O’Toole sustained burns over 40% of his body. He is scheduled for skin graph procedure on Monday. Kevin can communicate by talking.
Ethan Sorrell remains intubated, however, is conscious, and communicates by writing notes. He is scheduled for examinations tomorrow that can help determine the extent of his airway burns.
The Burn Units Medical Staff allowed Ethan to walk over to visit Kevin for a short period of time.
Mark Brady notes that both fathers, Vann Sorrell and Jeff O'Toole, are also firefighters.
PGFD Chief Marc Bashoor and Bladensburg VFD Chief Randy Kuenzli.
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.”
Notes: Bladensburg VFD Chief Randy Kuenzli confirms both Firefighter Ethan Sorrell and Firefighter Kevin O'Toole have connections to other departments in addition to Bladensburg VFD. Sorrell at the Buies Creek FD in North Carolina and O'Toole at the Bethpage FD on Long Island.
Also, this fire occurred on the same side of 57th Avenue just a few doors away from a November 2008 house fire that left two Riverdale VFD firefighters with burns after a flashover.
In addition, Mark Brady tells STATter911.com the annual banquet for Bladensburg VFD is tonight and that both firefighters have indicated to Chief Kuenzli they want the events to go on as scheduled and for everyone to enjoy themselves.
This fire was at 6318 57th Avenue on November 21, 2008. The flashover burned two firefighters from Riverdale. Picture by Tony George. See more pictures.
Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Fighter Ethan Sorrell, 21 years of age, remains in "Critical" condition with burns to his airway. Family members left Durham NC, last night to be with him today.
Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Fighter Kevin O’Toole, 22 years of age, was evaluated late last night/early this morning as being in "Critical" condition with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 40% of his body. Family members from Long Island, NY, were en route last night to be with Kevin.
Riverdale Volunteer Fire Fighter Michael McLary, 19 years of age, continued to receive treatment for injuries to his upper body/ribs. His ribs are not fractured, however, bruised with possible cartilage damage. He may be released as early as today. Family members were with him last night.
Dozens of family, friends and fire service personnel have been at the hospital throughout the night with the injured firefighters and remain there today. The Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center, their Doctors and staff are the very best at what they do – treating burn patients.
The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department sincerely appreciates the support provided by the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to assisting in the recovery and rehabilitation of injured firefighters and burn patients in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. Members of the Foundation were at the hospital before the first firefighter arrived and started support efforts for the injured firefighters, family and co-workers. Two of the injured firefighters have primary family members coming from out of town. The Foundation made accommodations for them at a nearby hotel and will continue to provide support for as long as is needed.
Firefighters that have been previously burned and treated at the Burn Unit become members of a fraternity. These firefighters return to the Burn Unit whenever a firefighter receives burn injuries and provide valuable insight to family, friends and co-workers about the treatment and recovery process. One of those fraternity members is Riverdale Volunteer Chief Chuck Ryan. He sustained critical burn injuries while on the job with DCFD. Ryan was at the Burn Unit overnight helping others to understand the treatment process that Bladensburg firefighters were receiving and what to expect in the days to come.
The volunteer leadership of Blandensburg, Riverdale, College Park as well as Fire Chief Marc Bashoor and the entire Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department acknowledge and are grateful the tremendous outpouring and offers of assistance from fire departments across the National Capitol Region. We are also inspired by the numerous well wishes, thoughts and prayers being offered from across the Country for our injured firefighters.
Prince George's County Fire Investigators continue their work to determine the cause and origin of the fire. The investigation is open and on-going. Fire loss to the vacant structure is estimated at $75,000.
Updates on the medical condition of the injured firefighters will be provided as additional information becomes available.
Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor will be at the Washington Hospital Center and will make himself available for comment anytime after 9:30 am. Please contact me to make arrangements.
The only update we have seen since Mark Brady's press release at 1:00 AM is that both firefighters from Bladensburg admitted to the burn center are listed as critical but stable and the Riverdale firefighter with broken ribs is in good condition.
Brady said that the home appeared to be vacant, though a car was parked in the driveway. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation and loss estimates were not immediately available
The fire broke out shortly after 9 p.m. Friday at a single-family, single-story home in the 6400 block of 57th Street in Riverdale. Investigators say that firefighters were trying to enter the building when a rush of air from the rear of the house created a fireball that engulfed the respondents. According to Prince George's Fire Spokesman Mark Brady, the sudden rush of air was caused by either a door or window being open or broken out.
Approximately 1:00 AM update from PGFD chief spokesman Mark Brady:
Seven Prince George’s County Firefighters were injured as they battled a house fire in Riverdale. At about 9:11 pm, Friday, February 24, firefighters were alerted to a house fire in the 6400 block of 57th Avenue. The engine from Riverdale and the truck from Bladensburg were the first to arrive and encountered a 1-story, with basement, single family home with fire on both levels.
Preliminary reports indicate that firefighters had initiated an interior attack on the fire when a sudden rush of air, fanned by high winds, entered from the rear of the house either from a door or window being opened or broken out. The sudden addition of a large amount of fresh air into the fire environment created a “fire ball’ inside engulfing the firefighters. Firefighters did all they could do to escape the untenable conditions that consumed the structure interior.
Incident commanders immediately called for additional resources by requesting an EMS Task Force and a Fire Task Force as well as ordering the evacuation tones to be sounded. There were about 65 firefighters, paramedics and incident commanders on the scene.
Photo by Billy McNeel.
Firefighters and EMS personnel went to the aid of the injured firefighters and prepared them for transport to the Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center. The injuries included burns, fractures and lacerations.
Another team of firefighters regrouped outside and re-entered the structure and had the fire extinguished in about 25 minutes after arrival.
Of the seven firefighters transported; four, 3 from Riverdale and 1 from College Park, will be released and sent home tonight.
The most seriously injured firefighters are two from the Bladensburg Fire/EMS Station #809 that were part of the first arriving truck company.
Bladensburg Volunteer Firefighter #1 is listed in “Critical” condition suffering from burn injuries to his upper body.
Bladensburg Volunteer Firefighter #2 is listed in “Serious” condition with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 30% of his body.
The third firefighter being admitted is from Riverdale Fire/EMS Station #807. Riverdale Volunteer Firefighter #1 is hospitalized with fractured ribs.
Dozens of fire service members as well as family and friends are with the injured firefighters at the Washington Hospital Center including Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, Riverdale Volunteer Fire Chief Chucky Ryan and Bladensburg Volunteer Chief Randy Kuenzli.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation and fire loss estimates are not yet available. This is a vacant structure although firefighters believed the house may have been occupied as a car was parked in the driveway.
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department will fully investigate this incident and review all aspects of the operations from a safety perspective.
Updates concerning the medical status and the cause and origin of the fire will be made as information becomes available.
UPDATE: According to TV news reports at 11:00 PM, PGFD chief spokesman Mark Brady says a fireball, fueled by high winds, went through the home forcing the firefighters to bail out. Brady said it was like a "blowtorch".
Some firefighters were burned and others were hurt exiting the home. The injuries range from burns, to lacerations and fractures.
Brady told reporters on the scene one firefighter has potentially life threatening burns.
According to Brady, the injured firefighters are volunteers from Riverdale (Station 807) and Bladensburg (Station 809).
A sudden rush of air into the structure caused “blowtorch or furnace-type conditions” that forced the firefighters out of the house, Brady said. “They couldn’t do anything about it.”Wind gusts were measured at more than 40 mph around that time.
Injuries included burns, cuts and fractures, Brady said. One firefighter was in critical condition, he said. The firefighters were being treated at a burn unit, he said.
Seven firefighters were injured while responding to a house fire in the 6300 block of 57th Ave. in Riverdale on Friday night, according to a tweet by the Prince George County Fire Department.
A one story home with a basement had heavy fire, with flames blown into the firefighters' faces by gusting winds. EMS personnel are on the scene. The firefighters, all volunteers, have injuries ranging from minor to serious.
At about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, a monstrous crash caused Bowie resident Claudia Calderwood to run from her home.
She soon found two men trapped in a terribly mangled car that had wrapped around a tree.
The rescue of two critically injured men from a bad car crash, sadly, isn't uncommon. However, this one became anything but run-of-the-mill, when a volunteer firefighter showed up to save his twin brother.
At the moment of the crash, Travis Murdoch, a police dispatcher with Prince George's County Public Safety Communications and a Bowie volunteer firefighter, jumped into an ambulance. He was tasked with initially assessing and treating the injured at the crash site, near Stonehaven Lane and Stoneybrook Drive.
When he arrived on the scene, he instantly recognized the car and, to his horror, his twin brother Chris, a fellow firefighter, trapped in the mangled vehicle.
"I can only imagine what occurred in that state," Prince George's County Fire spokesman Mark Brady said. "They took a moment out of shock and then went to work."
The passenger in the car was easily freed from the wreckage, but it took the rescue squad more than 30 minutes and the Jaws of Life to free Chris. The rescue happened while his twin brother, a two-time Firefighter of the Year, looked on.
"It was terrible the way that they had to cut that car apart," Calderwood said. "It was like nothing I've ever seen."
Eventually, Chris was removed from the car and both he and the passenger were flown the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where they remain in critical condition.
A five-year-old girl who nearly died during an asthma attack November 28th thanked the three Prince George's County firefighter/paramedics who's quick action saved her life.
Christina Luckett handed out personalized plaques featuring her picture and photo to firefighter/medics Edward Scott, William Philpott and Clinton volunteer firefighter Ashley Butler as she met the rescuers inside the firehouse.
The trio also received Emergency Service Awards from Prince George's County fire chief Marc. S. Bashoor.
The rescuers took the unusual step of racing Christina to Southern Maryland Hospital in their fire truck while performing CPR, rather than waiting a few extra minutes for an ambulance to arrive. She had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
She was released from the hospital 3-days later and has fully recovered.
"Thank you!" Christina exclaimed before the formalities. "They helped me feel better."
During the first couple of years of this rag Kentland VFD was regularly featured. The topics were everything but fighting fires and usually revolved around high profile battles with the administration of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department.
While we haven't seen any such controversy in the news involving the folks on Landover Road, we do occasionally get a glimpse of them in action. This is a brief video from a fire early on Friday in Kentland's first due at 1419 First Street in Glenarden. Click here for details on the from Kentland33.com.
Some interesting developments in the news about plans to change the structure and authority of volunteer fire commissions in both Prince George's County and Montgomery County.
In PG, County Executive Rushern Baker, in hopes that a compromise can be worked out, pulled back emergency legislation yesterday that would radically change the Prince George's County Fire Commission. The original plan would have Baker appoint commission members who live in the county and add career firefighter and civilian members to the panel. Currently, the all-volunteer commission is elected by the volunteer departments. The latest version keeps those changes but the commission would maintain control of its budget.
“The fire chief has advised the county executive that due to the tremendous efforts of our volunteers … they should be given an additional opportunity to come to a consensus on this reorganization, ” Brad Frome, Baker’s deputy chief of staff, told the council Tuesday.
A new executive order that maintains the residency requirement and changes to the appointment process but does not revoke the commission's authority over the $12 million in budget funds, was to be introduced Tuesday afternoon, Frome said. That order would not go into effect until March 1, which the administration feels is ample time to reach a compromise and alter the legislation as needed.
In Montgomery County, County Executive Isiah Leggett appears to be not quite as passionate as Chief Richard Bowers about removing the commission's veto power over the chief's orders.
“I agree with the sentiment of trying to provide some level of conformity and some level of direct manning and control and having the chief far more supported than he is today,” said Leggett, who did not attend the public hearing. “There’s still a question that this bill might be able to do that.”
Leggett said he has heard of alternatives but declined to say what they are. Both Bowers and Marcine D. Goodloe, president of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, say they remain firm on their stances. Bowers: chuck the veto entirely. Goodloe: keep it as it stands.
It is an interesting time in the neighboring counties of Montgomery and Prince George's in Maryland. Each county has bills readied that would significantly alter the relationship between the fire commission and the fire chief. Both proposals would shift power away from volunteers and to the career chief. This morning, The Washington Post's Victor Zapana has an article looking at the issues in each county.
On Tuesday, (Montgomery County) Council members Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) will propose legislation that would take away the veto power of the commission, which has volunteer, union and civilian members.
The bill is the latest salvo in the struggle over how volunteers fit in local communities that were once once largely rural but now are mostly suburban and even becoming urban.
Montgomery County is not alone in grappling with the issue. Next door, Prince George’s County is considering changes, too.
On Tuesday, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) will present the Prince George’s County Council with two bills to remake the county’s fire commission and strip it of supervisory and budgeting powers.
In both counties, the volunteers oppose the bills.
Below is a press release issued yesterday from the office of Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker:
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III Announces “Fire Protection Oversight Improvement Bills”
County Executive proposes reforming Fire Commission
Upper Marlboro, MD – Today, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III submitted two pieces of legislation to the Prince George’s County Council that will reform the Prince George’s County Fire Commission. These reforms will include requiring that members of the Fire Commission live in the County, as well as ensuring that there is citizen representation.
“Researched and proposed by our transition committee, this legislation aligns with my administration’s agenda of creating responsibility and accountability in all areas of Prince George’s County government,” said Baker. “In addition, these legislative amendments will ensure that public safety expenditures will be dedicated more efficiently to the protection of our citizens as well as all of our first responders.”
This legislative concept originated as a public safety goal for the Fire/EMS Department proposed by the Rushern Baker Transition Committee which specifically recommended that Prince George’s County should consider changing the structure, composition and role of the Fire Commission to include external and internal stakeholders as commission members who should be appointed in a manner that is consistent with other panels/boards that control Prince George’s County funding. To read the Fire/EMS recommendations in the full transition committee report.
One piece of legislation submitted today reflects an existing Executive Order signed by the County Executive that changes the manner of selecting members of the Fire Commission as outlined in the schedule of legislation attached to the Charter.
In addition, a companion piece of legislation makes changes to the County Code regarding the functions and responsibilities of the Fire Commission and further defines its membership.
The current composition and function of the Fire Commission were established in 1970 and represent a vestige of the early formation of the fire service and County Charter. They do not reflect how current modern fire service organizations are organized, nor how County funding distributions are or should be made. The members of the Fire Commission are elected by volunteers in the individual fire stations, and there is no residency requirement for the Commission.
Currently, the County Executive, Fire Chief and Prince George’s County Council do not have a role in the approval or removal of members of the Fire Commission, who have “de facto” authority over $12 million in public County funds.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor remarked, "Volunteers have been and will be a valuable part of the Fire/EMS Department. In the past nine months, I have doubled the number of volunteers actively involved in our operational Command and Safety areas. This administrative reorganization brings the Fire/EMS Department structure and administrative functions more in line with modern Fire/EMS Services. I fully support the County Executive’s efforts to improve the efficiency and transparency of our administrative functions."
This legislation would mirror the nomination and confirmation process for boards and commissions as outlined in the Charter. A nomination process would increase the likelihood that the Fire Commission will include more diverse representation, reflective of the communities that the Fire/EMS Department currently serves. Furthermore, Commission members including career and volunteer fire fighters as well as the general public would be nominated by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. The new Commission would consist of:
• Three members representing the volunteers,
• Three representing the career service,
• And three representing the Prince George’s County citizenry at large.
Bob Ross, President of the Prince George's County Branch of the NAACP, stated, "Anytime the community has the opportunity to be a more inclusive part of the government, we all win. I wholeheartedly support this change in the Fire Commission. The Fire/EMS Department is an important part of the Prince George's County Government. Our residents deserve and should expect more opportunities like this, to improve transparency and inclusiveness."
Furthermore, this legislation would re-align the mission of the Fire Commission to serve in an advisory capacity for the Fire Chief, unifying the fiscal and administrative processes under the authority and accountability of the Fire Chief. It would also clarify the authority of the Fire Commission to review requests and make recommendations about the expenditure of County funds and would clarify the approval and expenditure authority under the Fire Chief. The Fire Commission would continue to serve a functional review and advisory role with regard to the budget, providing a check and balance to assure fiscal decisions serve the public interest. Additionally, the Fire Commission would serve in an advisory capacity regarding the budget of the volunteer fire fighters, policies and procedures as well as recruitment and retention programs.
Administratively, this legislation would reorganize the Fire/EMS Department with four Deputy Chiefs, to reflect the addition of a Deputy Chief in charge of the Human Resources (HR) Command. The HR Deputy would have direct representation and accountability for the Volunteer administration. This Deputy Chief would be selected from the Volunteer ranks, or would be required to document extensive volunteer Fire/EMS service, including previous service as a Volunteer Chief in the County system.
The proposed legislation will restructure the Fire Commission by improving its mission and objectives, while continuing to enhance citizen engagement as well as advocate for the needs of the fire service, both volunteer and career.
When Lt. Col. Karl Granzow Jr.'s office at the headquarters of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department in Largo, Maryland was raided by the FBI in September, 2008 we were lead to believe two things by various sources: this was connected to a development project known as Greenbelt Station (which at one time was to include a fire station); the raids were just a stopping off point on the trail that would bring about the downfall of Prince Georges' County Executive Jack Johnson.
Today, almost three years later, comes word that Karl Granzow entered guilty pleas in March as part of the same corruption probe that resulted in Johnson's arrest. Granzow retired from PGFD in April, 2009.
The guilty plea of a retired Prince George’s County fire official was unsealed Monday in federal court, linking him to the large-scale corruption probe that has taken down developers, public officials and police officers in the county over the last several months.
Karl Granzow, 46, pleaded guilty in secret to conspiring to commit extortion and to income tax evasion on March 11. Mr. Granzow, a former lieutenant colonel in the county fire department, admitted in his guilty plea to partnering with county developers for more than 10 years to bribe public officials for development favors related to the Greenbelt Station development project.
Granzow, who was an official responsible for the fire department's Management Services Command at the time of the briberies, had ownership interests in Greenbelt Metropark, a company trying to build a mixed-use project near the Greenbelt Metro Station.
For more than 10 years, Granzow and co-conspirators offered state and local officials money, meals, drinks, trip expenses, campaign contributions, hotel rooms, airline tickets and more in exchange for rulings that would favor their development projects, according to Granzow's guilty plea filed under seal on March 30.
From the AP:
He also admitted bribing public officials in exchange for acts that benefited a development near the Greenbelt Metro station. Granzow’s co-conspirators, developers Patrick Ricker and Daniel Colton, have also pleaded guilty. Their pleas were unsealed after former County Executive Jack Johnson pleaded guilty to corruption.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for Granzow to receive between 2 ½ and three years in prison. No sentencing date has been scheduled.
Marc Bashoor was unanimously confirmed as fire chief amid applause from an audience of uniformed firefighters and EMS workers.
“I know this process is very long,” Baker told the council. “I appreciate the tough questioning and sincere way you went about this.”
Bashoor is a 23-year worker with the county fire/EMS department who left for an emergency management post in West Virginia in 2005. He returned after Baker was elected late last year to take over the department, which handles more than 179,000 fire and emergency calls per year.
Now here's a question for you. News wise it has been an unusually quiet period for PGFD since Chief Bashoor took over at the start of the year. Is it because Marc Bashoor is so good at what he does or is it because his friend Dave Statter retired from the TV news business a year ago?
In Northeast Washington, the office building at 2120 Bladensburg Road owned by IAFF Local 36 officially became the Kenneth M. Cox Building yesterday. I say officially, because I have thought of it as the Kenneth M. Cox Building for quite a few decades. In my 25 years as a TV reporter it is probably the location I visited most often and the place where I found some of the richest and most interesting stories. And Kenny Cox is largely responsible for that. I would go as far to say that STATter911.com probably would not exist without Kenny. That in itself is an interesting comment considering Kenny usually can't even find the on button to his computer without help.
My friend Kenny Cox is full of such interesting contradictions. As the person who served as an elected official of IAFF Local 36 longer than anyone else (37 years) Kenny has been an extremely important player in the work of the union. But while Kenny's fingerprints were everywhere, he stayed out of the spotlight.
Kenny's ideas and words have been heard by many in speeches and during hearings in the District Building and on Capitol Hill. But those words rarely came out of Kenny's mouth.
In the 1970s Kenny Cox won an extremely important First Amendment case for the union, fighting the punishment he received for criticizing the administration over a fatal fire near the quarters of a company closed due to budget cuts. He spoke to a reporter while on-duty at the scene of the fire. Yet, despite a federal judge confirming his right to speak his mind, the name Kenny Cox was rarely in the newspaper. Kenny was the main point of contact for reporters looking to find out Local 36's view of the world, but he wouldn't let you quote him. I believe my only on-camera interview with Kenny is in the video at the top of this page and it occurred yesterday.
And this quiet and deeply religious man also has an absolutely devilish side that often comes out in his deadpan sense of humor and as an instigator of practical jokes.
While I've been intrigued about all of these interesting aspects of Kenny's personality, the characteristics that meant the most to a young TV reporter hungry for a good story were his honesty, credibility and decency.
If Kenny Cox told me something, I knew I could rely on it. The truth was the truth with Kenny, even when it wasn't the best of news for the union. He knew his credibility was the most important commodity in being an effective advocate for the firefighters of the District of Columbia.
And the many union presidents that passed through during Kenny's tenure also realized the treasure they had in Kenny Cox. As Bill Mould said yesterday during the dedication ceremony, "I often felt like the guy who sits on the ventriloquist's lap". It seemed to be a universal feeling among all of the former union heads, even though there isn't a dummy among them. Still, a cynical ex-reporter wanted to know if Cox drafted their speeches for the event, considering each of them rarely ventured out on union business without Kenny's words in their pockets.
Kenny will be the first to tell you that there are many, many others who helped guide Local 36 through the late 20th and early 21st Century. And there were. But Kenny's ability to work the halls of Congress on both sides of the aisle and at the same time deal with the politics in the District Building was somewhat unique. Especially considering that DC's mayors and council members hated when the union went to Congress to get help on District issues.
One such effort was 30-years-ago when Cox used the influence of a Virginia congressman and others to convince Mayor Marion Barry that firing the recruits of Class 275, who had all just left other jobs to be DC firefighters, was a really bad idea. Four members of that class, all now chief officers of the department, made a special presentation to Kenny.
While younger members may know some of what Kenny Cox has meant to the local, it is unlikely they know much about Kenny as a firefighter. There were quite a few long retired firefighters and officers at the ceremony yesterday who told those stories. Among those was Kenny's close friend, and former lieutenant at Truck 8, Larry Beardmore. Beardmore is from a family of legendary firefighters, including his brothers Tex and Johnny, who I knew very well from my days in Prince George's County.
About five-years-ago I ran across film of a May, 1972 event at the District Building with Mayor Walter Washington. There was no description of the event, but I immediately recognized a young Kenny Cox sitting with a group of firefighters. Another part of the film showed an interview with an officer whose face bore a strong resemblance to the Beardmores I knew. From a story I had heard from Kenny years before about Larry Beardmore grabbing three young children out of a burning apartment building, I figured this must be Truck 8 getting the "Company of the Year" award. I was correct.
While I actually first heard of that amazing rescue and Larry's Gold Medal of Valor while I was in PG in the 70s, I really never knew much about Kenny's role at that fire until I pushed for further details after finding the clip. Kenny and Firefighter Barrett Payne each received Silver Medals for their actions on January 21, 1971 at 4307 3rd Street, SE.
Engine 25 had gone to the address on a local alarm for a bush on fire just after midnight but found fire showing out of a picture window on the first floor and rapidly extending to the the second and third floors. I strongly encourage you to read the entire report (here) written by Larry Beardmore. Here is some of what Larry wrote about Kenny's actions (click the image below to increase its size):
Yesterday Larry and Kenny both described it as a "routine fire" and just laughed at a washed up TV news guy as he tried to elicit something of substance about the incident. But make sure you listen to the few usable words from Beardmore at the end of the video above. They are important.
And since we are talking about family, let's not forget Kenny's high school sweetheart Marti. They will be married 48-years next January. Or his children Ken Jr. and Michelle Lyn and grandchildren Taylor Lyn and Ethan. Michelle, who sings each year at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend, did a moving tribute to her dad during the dedication ceremony.
Despite pushing 70 and a body ravaged by serious spinal issues and Parkinson's Disease, Kenny Cox still works hard on behalf of Local 36.
Kenny didn't want the tribute yesterday and even threatened not to show up. I imagine he will be greatly embarrassed by what I have written here (not that the man who has given Dave Statter more fire department stories than anyone else is likely to read the blog). I say tough.
It is long overdue for Kenny Cox to come out of the shadows and be recognized publicly. I would make the case that not only are DC firefighters much better off for the work of Kenny Cox, but so are the citizens of and visitors to the District of Columbia. When it comes to anything fire related, Kenneth M. Cox is probably more responsible than any chief, union president, firefighter or political leader in ensuring the safety of everyone in the Nation's Capital.
Congratulations to Arlington County Fire Department Assistant Chief Ben Barksdale who will take a job across the Potomac River with the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department on June 19. Below are emails sent from the chiefs of both departments.
From Chief Jim Schwartz:
This message is to announce that Assistant Chief Ben Barksdale has accepted a position as Lt. Colonel with the Prince Georges County Fire Department. This is a deputy chief position with a larger department that will present new opportunities for Ben. Through years of hard work and by constantly taking on new challenges Ben has prepared himself well. While this is a huge loss for Arlington, it is a great opportunity for Ben and his family.
Ben's last day with Arlington will be in mid-June and we will let you know when the specifics are ironed out. In the meantime please join me in congratulating Chief Barksdale on a major career accomplishment and wish him well in his new endeavor.
Jim Schwartz, Chief
Arlington County Fire Department
From Chief Marc Bashoor:
I am pleased to announce that Benjamin Barksdale will join the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department as a Lieutenant Colonel, effective June 19, 2011. Ben has worked for the Arlington County Fire Department for 24 years, currently serving as an Assistant Chief. Ben will work with Lieutenant Colonel Angela Peden in Administrative Services, until her retirement effective July 31, 2011.
In the coming weeks, Ben will be meeting with staff and visiting facilities. Please join me welcoming Ben to our Fire/EMS family. Additional information, including a press release, will be forthcoming.