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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Safety First Day of the Month of June

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

This past Wednesday evening a Bowie resident succumbed to smoke and thermal injuries sustained during a fire while in his home.  A non-working smoke alarm was found in his basement.  There were no smoke alarms found on the main or second floors.  This death was the second of the year in Prince George's County.  Both deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm.

Today is Safety First Day of the Month of June.  It is the day designated for residents to test their smoke  and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working.  If they are not working replace the battery or replace the entire alarm with a new 10 year, with hush feature alarm.  Changes in our laws will require these type of alarms so you should replace your alarm now.

Test alarms - it may just be the difference between life and death.

On Friday, May 30, 2014, Prince George;s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor provided the following comments in regards to the fatal house fire while standing at the scene at 6410 Grendel Place in Bowie.

Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor
Thirty six hours ago, firefighters arrived at the home behind me, to find a well advanced fire, extending into the roof area.  Firefighters made an aggressive attempt to search the home and extinguish the fire, however weakening structural conditions and exploding ammunition forced firefighters to withdrawal from the home twice.  After using aerial ladder extinguishing nozzles to knock down the majority of the fire, after ammunition ceased firing, and upon entering the home for the third time, firefighters located the deceased 65 year old male homeowner in an upstairs room.  Preliminary autopsy results confirm the cause of death as smoke inhalation and burns.  As of this time we will continue to hold the victim’s identity.  Fire Investigators, working as standard practice, with Prince George’s County Police Homicide Investigators have been unable to make notification to any next of kin.

There is no indication of anything nefarious at this scene.  The fire appears to have begun on the first floor, however the cause remains undetermined.  Due to structural instability, Fire Investigators have been unable to access the immediate fire area to determine a cause.  The Office of the Fire Marshal will work with the Insurance Company investigators to continue the investigation. 

As part of the early investigation, Firefighters reported an eerie silence where they would have hoped to hear a smoke alarm – specifically, there were no smoke alarms sounding when they entered the house.  Fire investigators later found one non-working smoke alarm in the basement. 

Prince George’s County has seen a dramatic increase in successful smoke alarm-saves, and record level decreases in fire fatalities this year.  In the past 90 days, smoke alarms have alerted 12 separate families to fires in their homes. In all 12 of those instances, residents were able to get out of the homes alive and uninjured.

At 1:30 am February 10, a family on Cantebury Court in Mitchellville was awakened by their smoke alarm – 3 adults escaped uninjured.

At 1:45 pm on March 24, a smoke alarm previously installed by our firefighters alerted 3 adults to a fire in their home on Greenleaf Road in Kentland.  Everyone got out ok.

At 3:30 am on April 8, a fire started in the basement of a town home on Kettering Place in Largo.  Much like the incident here on Grendel Place, that 1:30 am Kettering fire spread out the windows and up the side of the home to the attic.  The difference on Kettering Place, was that a working smoke alarm woke the sleeping residents. 2 adults escaped unharmed.

I cannot tell you that a smoke alarm would have saved this homeowner on Grendel Place, however I CAN tell you it is a chance he will never have.

Previous smoke alarm legislation from 1982 should have protected this homeowner.  Sprinklers would most certainly have made a difference.  Most of these homes were permitted 1 year prior to the enactment of home sprinkler requirements in 1992.  In the 22 years since that legislation was enacted, there have been no fire fatalities in sprinklered homes in Prince George’s County.  New legislation taking affect over the next 2 years will eventually require 10-year sealed lithium battery smoke alarms in all homes.  We are advocating for those alarms now, alarms that have a hush feature to temporarily silence the alarms when there are false alerts. 

Firefighters will be going door to door shortly in this neighborhood to check residents smoke alarms and provide safety tips and information.   Firefighters will also be informing residents about new Carbon Monoxide detector legislation that takes affect in Prince George’s County on July 1 this year.  All homes with gas service and/or attached garages will be required to be equipped with at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of the home.  Carbon Monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, which will slowly snuff the oxygen out of your air.  Having a working CO detector is equally important as smoke alarms are.

As valiant as these door-to-door efforts are, no area Fire Department can do this alone.  As is evidenced by Wednesday nights fire here, we need to do a better job of getting the message out – smoke alarms do save lives.  Our Neighbors Helping Neighbors program asks area residents to help us.  Please check your own alarm, then to go next door and check your neighbors – and when you’re done with that go down the street and check someone who’s less able to help themselves.  If we can engage everyone within the sound of my voice in the neighbors-helping-neighbors program – we will reduce fire injuries and fatalities across the region.

As part of our Safety First Day of the month program, I urge everyone listening to check their smoke alarm today, and then again on the first of every month – then go next door and check your neighbors. 

If any alarms are found to be more than 10 years old – they should be replaced now, with new alarms with the 10-year sealed battery units.  If any Prince George’s County resident needs an alarm, we will provide one to them and install it free of charge – all they need to do is call 311 with their request.  We depend on material donations for the free smoke alarms, so please understand any delay may be a result of a low supply.

Remember – the Fire/EMS Departments cannot do this alone – we need every neighbor out there helping us check their neighbors alarms.  Together we will make a difference and save lives.
We’ll take a few questions before going door to door.

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