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Friday, November 18, 2011

Firefighter/Medics Familiarize Themselves with MD Route 200

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Prince George's County Firefighters and Medics have had the opportunity over the past week to travel on a new highway to become familiar with the road and pre-plan their responses in the event of an emergency.   The Intercounty Connector (ICC) is scheduled to open to the public on or about November 22.  The ICC, Maryland Route 200, will link existing and proposed development areas between the I-270/I-370 and I-95/US 1 corridors within central and eastern Montgomery County and northwestern Prince George's County with a state-of-the-art, multi-modal east-west highway that limits access and accommodates the movement of passengers and goods.  

Prince George's County Firefighters and Medics have recently had the opportunity to tour and pre-plan the Prince George's County portion of of the ICC which is referred to as Contract "C."  This portion covers almost four miles of new, limited access highway with three interchanges, two of which are in Montgomery County; Route 29 and Briggs Chaney Road.  The third intersection is in Prince George's County at Interstate Route 95 which includes a sprawling area of long on/off ramps and a combination of elevated overpasses and underpasses.

A consensus among firefighters is their preference to call the new highway "Route 200."  While the dispatch assignments used by Public Safety Communications are still being finalized, fire/EMS personnel have determined that units from Laurel Fire/EMS Station 810 will be first due on the west-bound side and will travel Route 198 to south-bound Interstate 95 to Route 200. Burtonsville, Montgomery County Fire/EMS Station 715, is the closest station to east-bound Route 200 by accessing the interchange at Briggs Chaney Road.  Calverton Fire/EMS Station 841 is second due on the east-bound side, however, first due on incidents reported on north-bound I-95 and the ramp to west-bound Route 200.  

One of the challenges that firefighters have noted is that a precise location is essential to dispatch the correct units in the appropriate directions.  This is particularly important on the ramps at the interchange of I-95.  Fire Captain Scott Orr, Station Commander at Calverton, stated, "The biggest challenges I foresee for Route 200 is locating the incident if it is in the I-95 interchange.  If the location isn't precise, the correct ramp may not be immediately covered.  This would cause a large delay in response as turning around and getting to the correct ramp would be very time consuming."

Beltsville Volunteer Chief Al Schwartz, Deputy Chief Matt Tomlins and Fire Captain Orr all made important observations concerning water supply management on Route 200 and adjacent roadways.  Typical with limited acess highways is the availability of hydrants for water supply.   Hydrants and water supply sources on the Prince George's portion of Route 200 are in the area of the overpass at Old Gunpowder Road.  An access door and hose line connection are located on the sound barrier wall on the westbound lane west of Old Gunpowder Road.  Deputy Chief Tomlins noted, "Water supply is scarce until the proximity of Old Gunpowder Rd where there is a connection on the westbound side sound wall. The lay would have to go from the hydrant on Burkhall Drive off of Greencastle to the sound wall."  Captain Orr believes that two hydrants located on northbound Old Gunpowder Road on each side of Route 200 would be the most accessible to that portion of the road with hose lines being laid from the hydrant and dropped down to the units operating on Route 200.  There are other hydrants in the area of Briggs Chaney Road in Montgomery County.  

Currently there is no nearby water supply available at the intersection of I-95 and Route 200.  Future development is slated to bring additional hydrants and water supply into this area.  Water carried on-board engine companies will be able to handle most small fire incidents (autos, brush, etc), anything involving large vehicle fires or hazardous material incidents will require large water tankers in addition to laying of hose lines to the nearest hydrant located about 1 mile away.

As with any opening of new highway interchanges there is a high probability of increased activity involving motor vehicle crashes.  Personnel from Laurel, Calverton, Beltsville, Laurel Rescue and Berwyn Heights should anticipate increased responses into the area when the new interchange and roadway opens.  These Fire/EMS Stations are preparing themselves by being as familiar as possible with the highway and response patterns to reported incidents.  Citizens, residents and visitors should always exercise defensive driving habits while operating a motor vehicle, however, motorists traversing the new highway and interchanges should be extra vigilant until drivers become accustomed to the change in roadways.  These defensive driving habits include paying acute attention to yourself and others around you, avoid distractions and adhere to posted speed limits and highway signage.

The view of MD Route 200 from the Old Gunpowder Road overpass looking east towards I-95.

The view of MD Route 200 from Old Gunpowder Road overpass looking west.  The access door and wall connection can be seen on the sound wall adjacent to the overhead road signs.

The access door and wall connection can be seen on the sound wall adjacent to the overhead road signs.

Traveling northbound on I-95 approaching Route 200.

Traveling northbound on I-95 at Route 200.

Traveling southbound on I-95 at ramp for westbound 200.

Firefighters Handle 2 Home Fires - Residential Sprinkler Handles 1

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Firefighters battled home fires late last night and early this morning.  There was another fire that occurred yesterday that was extinguished by a residential sprinkler system and required little intervention by firefighters.

At around 7:30 pm, Thursday, November 17, 2011, Firefighter/Medics were dispatched to a fire in a townhouse in the 1000 block of Karen Boulevard in Seat Pleasant.  Firefighters arrived to find a 2-story townhouse with a fire inside that had been extinguished by an activated residential sprinkler system.  Firefighters ensured the fire was completely extinguished.  Damage caused by the accidental fire was limited to $2,000 and firefighters were not forced to place themselves in harms way by having to battle the fire.

Later, firefighters battled two homes that did not have residential sprinklers.  Just after 11:00 pm, firefighters arrived to a 2-story single-family home in the 700 block of 59th Avenue in Fairmount Heights with heavy fire coming from the 1st floor.  Crews entered the burning structure and battled the blaze for about 15 minutes to knock the fire down.  All searches proved negative and it appears the house is unoccupied.  Fire Investigators have initiated a search for the cause of the fire that remains under investigation.  Fire loss is estimated at $40,000.  No injuries were reported.

At 12:40 am, Friday, November 18, 2011, firefighters responded to a house fire in the 1400 block of 1st Street in Glenarden.  Fire/EMS units arrived to find fire throughout the 1-story single family home.  It required about 15 minutes to knock the fire down.  No injuries were reported and the family will be displaced.  The cause of the fire is under investigation and fire loss is estimated at $80,000.

The comparison of these incidents clearly illustrates the advantages of a residential sprinkler system.  The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of home fire sprinklers. Fire sprinkler systems offer the optimum level of fire safety because they control the fire immediately in the room of origin, help limit the spread of fire, and often extinguish it before the fire department arrives.  All residential structures built after January 1, 1992, in Prince George’s County were required to have home sprinklers.  Since then, there has never been a death reported in a home with a home sprinkler system in the County.  For additional information on the success of our residential sprinkler ordinance please click here.