More Proof - Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives and Property - 5 Home Fires within 48 Hours

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

Several house fires across Prince George’s County over the past weekend have disrupted the lives of many residents, however, no one was hurt.  There is no connection to any of these fires except that in 3 of these 5 incidents a working smoke alarm is credited with alerting the occupants of a fire.

On Friday morning, July 11, firefighters from Accokeek responded to a report from an alarm company that they were receiving an activated fire alarm coming from a home in the 3100 block of Bryan Point Road.  Upon arrival firefighters saw smoke inside the house and immediately took action.  No one was home at the time an a electrical appliance, a dehumidifier, malfunctioned and ignited a fire in the basement.  Firefighters were able to quickly contain the fire and limited fire loss estimates to $5,000.  With no one being home and without that smoke alarm the fire would have grown until a neighbor or passerby could see flames and smoke coming from the house.  No injuries occurred at this incident.

25th Avenue scene by Trevor James on Twitter
Later on Friday, at about 2:35 pm, a smoke alarm emitted a warning to occupants of a 1-story, with basement, duplex in the 6700 block of 25th Avenue in West Hyattsville.  Firefighters from the Chillum Fire/EMS Station were the first to arrive with heavy smoke issuing from the house.  A fire in the basement was located and extinguished.  The occupants, escaped unharmed after hearing the smoke alarms warning.  Two pets, a dog and a rabbit, were removed by firefighters and were not injured.  Fire loss is estimated at $20,000 and the cause remains under investigation.  9 adults, 2 children and 2 pets are displaced and are being assisted by the County Citizen Services Unit (CSU) and the American Red Cross (ARC).

Fire showing from roof of townhouse on Grenfell Pl.
Photo by Laura Bashoor
Just after 4:30 pm firefighters from the Bowie area operated at the scene of a townhouse fire in the 13900 block of Grenfell Place.  No one was home at the time of the fire.  It appears a fire started on the exterior rear of the house, extended up the rear wall bypassing any smoke alarms and sprinklers, and entered the attic.  Firefighters arrived with fire showing from the top floor.  A 2nd alarm was sounded bringing a total of about 75 firefighters to the scene.  The fire was extinguished with 30 minutes of arrival.  The family of 5 adults, 5 children and 1 dog are displaced and are being assisted by CSU and the ARC.  Fire loss is estimated at $200,000 and the cause is accidental3 of these 5 incidents resulted in a working smoke alarm. 

Just before 9:30 pm firefighters were alerted to a house fire in the 8700 block of 21st Place in Adelphi.  A malfunctioning gas dryer in the basement had ignited a fire, which activated a working smoke alarm.  Six adults and one child escaped safely and without injury thanks to the warning sounded by the alarm.  It took about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire with fire loss estimated at $15,000.  The family is displaced and being assisted by the CSU and ARC.

Fort Washington house well involved with fire.
Photo by Assistant Fire Chief S. White
An early morning fire destroyed a vacant 2-story house in Fort Washington.   The 2-story structure in the 200 block of St. Andrews Place was well involved upon arrival at about 5:30 Sunday morning with firefighters taking a defensive exterior position preventing the fire from extending to other structures.  This fire remains under investigation and fire loss is estimated at $250,000.

A working smoke alarm played a role in 3 of theses 5 incidents.  The early warning ushered all occupants out of burning structures without injury and allowed early notification to firefighters that arrived quickly, extinguished the fire and minimized the amount of fire loss.  With all occupants out of the structures and no reports of any humans trapped, firefighters focused their primary attention to extinguishing the fire.  Entire searches of the homes were conducted, however, without the urgency of searching for a trapped occupant.  This action reduced the risk of injury to firefighters.

Of the 3 incidents involving working smoke alarms, total fire loss is estimated at $40,000.  The 2 incidents where it is undetermined if a smoke alarm was present, fire loss is estimated at $450,000. 

Working smoke alarm incidents did result in the families being displaced, however, these will be short term.  The other 2 incidents will be long-term displacements.

Throughout all of these incidents, no injuries to civilians or any firefighters operating on the fire ground were reported.

Smoke alarms save lives, can reduce the amount damage your property suffers and the amount of time you will be displaced.  A working smoke alarm combined with a family escape plan increases the chances of you and your family surviving a home fire by over 50%.  A working smoke alarm, escape plan and a residential sprinkler system increase your chances of survival by over 80%.

The Fire/EMS Department highly recommends that families install a 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature smoke alarm on every level of your home (this will be a law effective January 1, 2015).  Test your alarm on the first day of every month to ensure it is working, additionally, design and practice a home escape plan identifying two ways out of every room in your home in addition to a meeting place outside.

A better option to installing just a smoke alarm is to purchase and install a combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm with a 10-year tamper proof battery and install one on every level of your home and especially in areas where occupants sleep.  By doing so, you will be compliant with our CO law (effective July 1, 2014) and our new smoke alarm law requiring the 10-year style alarm by January 1, 2015 as well as providing the best protection possible for you and your family.  Visit your local hardware or home improvement store today.