By Mark F. Gray
Prince George’s County Fire Department first responders helped avoid a tragedy when a blaze engulfed a home forcing a dangerous but successful rescue effort in District Heights on Feb. 17.
Firefighters from the District Heights Fire/EMS Station 826 responded to a call during the late evening hours after a house fire was reported in the Boulevard Heights community around 10 pm. The single-family home in the 4000 block of Byers Street was engulfed in flames with its residents trapped inside, according to a report from the County’s Fire Department.
When the fire fighting teams arrived on the scene, they were met with by a raging blaze featuring heavy flames from a fire that apparently started in a detached shed next to the home, which ultimately moved into the main living quarters. Residents in the building previously heard screaming in terror as law enforcement representatives arrived and tried to enter but were blocked by thick smoke and the heat from the fire’s intensity that forced them to wait for their counterparts from the fire department.
The unsuccessful rescue attempt by the police officer who initially replied, led to acquiring critical information that was vital to the efforts of the firefighters who reached the scene shortly thereafter. Firefighters, who collaborated with the officer once they reached the incident, learned there were residents inside that were trapped which prompted the swift rescue effort.
According to the Fire Department’s report, the information provided the by the police office gave them a projected timeline they used to initiate an aggressive rescue attempt. One male and another female occupant were in perilous situations on separate areas of the second floor inside the single family dwelling forcing different attempts to bring them both to safety.
“The crew knew that time was of the essence as heat and smoke continued to build up in the house,” recounts the incident report provided by Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman Mark E. Brady. “The crew split up and deployed a charged hose line to initiate extinguishment of the fire and allow access to the interior stairwell. Two other crewmembers, including a firefighter and the crew officer, in full personal protective equipment, ascended the stairwell following the screams for help.”
Despite the quick reaction time by first responders to the scene, the fire’s swift movement forced the firefighter’s into a fast paced effort to avoid any fatalities. Station 826’s team simultaneously worked to contain and extinguish the flames while bring the couple to safety.
“All the firefighters did an excellent job on the rescue and extinguishing the fire,” Firefighter/Medic Lieutenant Kris Demattia, the officer-in-charge, said in the statement. “Two more minutes and the outcome could have been very different.”
One man and a woman were rescued as efforts to contain the fire continued by following the shrieks for help. Two firefighters entered the flaming house as their search for the endangered residents began. However, the rescue may not have been successful if a stairwell hadn’t been temporarily secured by the firefighters operating the water hose lines.
The male occupant was swiftly found near the top of the stairwell and taken to safety through the home’s interior stairwell. The remaining firefighter stayed on the second floor and continued his search to quickly locate an adult female in a bedroom. That firefighter carried her to safety, by using the stairwell also.
It required about 20 minutes to completely extinguish the fire.
The Fire Marshal officially listed the cause of the fire undetermined as the investigation continues. The fire loss is estimated at $25,000 and no additional injuries.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.