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Sunday, June 7, 2009

11200 Westport Drive - Townhouse Fire - Glenn Dale, MD by Tom Yeatman

A fire in a Glenn Dale townhouse caused an estimated $500,000 in fire loss, injured an adult male occupant, several pets being unaccounted for and three families are displaced from their homes.

At about 8:15 PM, Sunday, March 1, 2009, firefighters and paramedics from Glenn Dale, Kentland, West Lanham Hills, Bowie and Tuxedo were alerted to a fire with a report of an adult male trapped in the basement of a townhouse in the 11200 Block of Westport Drive.

Firefighters arrived and encountered a 2-story with basement, non-sprinklered, middle of the row townhouse, with heavy fire showing from every level of the home. The intense fire initially prevented firefighters from entering the home to search for the trapped occupant. Firefighters knocked down enough of the fire from an exterior position before they were able to enter the structure. After a short period of time on the interior searching and attacking the fire, crews were evacuated from the structure when a partial collapse occurred. Fortunately, all firefighters escaped safely and there were no reported injuries.

Unknown to the firefighters was that the adult male occupant that had been reported trapped had escaped along with his family prior to the arrival of the Fire Department. The adult male sustained burns to upper body after attempting to extinguish the fire rather then exiting the structure. He was transported to a Burn Unit where it is expected he will be admitted for treatment of 1st and 2nd degree burn injuries to his upper body. His condition is serious. Two attached townhouses on either side of the townhouse of origin also sustained significant fire damage and are uninhabitable.

Additional resources were required to assist the units on the initial alarm and a Task Force was sounded bringing Fire/EMS units from Landover Hills, Bowie (Free State), Berwyn Heights and Seat Pleasant. Firefighters entered the townhouses on either side of the burning townhouse and stopped the extension, thereby limiting damage to additional townhomes. There were about 50 firefighter/EMT’s and paramedics that worked for about 30 minutes to knock down the bulk of the fire.

The family was at home when the fire started and was alerted when a smoke alarm provided an audible warning of the fire. A cat, Noel, was removed from one of the damaged townhouses and returned to the owner; however, 3 dogs remain unaccounted for.

Three families from the three damaged townhouses, 8 adults and 3 children, will be displaced and are being assisted by the Department’s Citizens Services Unit and the American Red Cross with temporary shelter. Fire Investigators believe the fire started in the basement and blame an unattended candle for starting the fire.

This incident could have had an even more tragic ending if it had not been for the warning emitted from a working smoke alarm. Having a working smoke alarm provides you with a 50% better chance of surviving a fire in your home. Citizens and residents are urged to have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, test your alarm once-a-month and change the batteries at least once-a-year. A natural reminder to change your battery will be next weekend when we adjust our clocks to Daylight Savings Time. Change your clock – Change your battery. Citizens and residents can obtain a smoke alarm installed in their home, free of charge, by contacting the Fire/EMS Department's Smoke Alarm Hotline at 301-864-SAFE.