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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Woodmore House Fire - Good News and Concerning News

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

Photo Credit: Billy McNeel, Citizen Services Unit

I have some good news that came out of a tragic house fire and I have some news that is very concerning to firefighters.

Prince George's County
Firefighter/Medics responded to a house fire today, Sunday, March 23, just before 9:30 am.  Fire/EMS units arrived at a 3800+ sq, ft. custom built single family home located in the 11900 block of Pleasant Prospect Road within the gated community of Woodmore.  The house is 2-stories in places and 3-stories in other portions.  Upon arrival firefighters saw heavy smoke billowing from the 2nd floor and roof of the spacious home.

Firefighters initiated an interior attack on the fire and an aggressive search for residents that normally occupy the home.  The fire was contained and extinguished within 20 minutes of arrival and all searches were negative.  For the fourth time, that we know of, in the month of March, a working smoke alarm sounded a loud and distinct warning of a fire in the home.  The two occupants heeded the warning of the smoke alarm and exited the home.  No one was injured.  6 adults are displaced.

Having a working smoke alarm increases the chances of surviving a fire in your home by about 50%.
Smoke alarms should be tested on the first day of every month, discard smoke alarms that are 10 years old or older and provided fresh batteries at least once-a-year.  Property owners are asked to upgrade to the new 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature smoke alarm for added protection.  Alarms should be installed on every floor of your home and inside bedrooms.  The request becomes a mandate at the end of the year.

While a house was damaged, the good news, a working smoke alarm is credited with saving another family from injury and an early notification to firefighters.  Fire loss is estimated at $100,000 and the cause was accidental and attributed to an unattended candle on the second floor.

The news that is causing concern for firefighters is that this was the third fire "THIS WEEKEND" that was caused by unattended candles.  The combined fire loss from these three incidents is estimated at $170,000.  Three families are displaced from their homes and will be inconvenienced for months while fire damage is repaired.  Remember, a candle has an open flame capable of igniting combustibles.  The men and women of our combined career, civilian and volunteer members of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department is joining with the United States Fire Administration in providing the following information to help prevent fires caused by candles.

Causes and Circumstances of Home Candle Fires

  • On average, 42 home candle fires are reported every day.
  • More than half of all candle fires start when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains, or decorations is too close to the candle.
  • In one-fifth (20%) of candle fires, the candles are unattended or abandoned.
  • Over one-third (36%) of home candle fires begin in the bedroom.
  • Falling asleep is a factor in 12% of home candle fires and 36% of the associated deaths.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires.  In December, 13% of home candle fires begin with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.
  • One-half of home candle fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6 am.
  • Young children and older adults have the highest death risk from candle fires.
  • The risk of fatal candle fires appears higher when candles are used for light.
Sources: NFIRS, NFPA

Candle Safety Tips

  • Consider using battery-operated or electric flameless candles and fragrance warmers, which can look, smell and feel like real candles – without the flame.
  • If you do use candles, ensure they are in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.
  • Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  • Extinguish candles after use and before going to bed.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Set a good example by using matches, lighters and fire carefully.
  • Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles.
  • Never use a candle where medical oxygen is being used. The two can combine to create a large, unexpected fire.
  • Always use a flashlight – not a candle – for emergency lighting.
  • Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
  • When using in home worship, don't place lit candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them, or pass handheld candles from one person to another. To lower the risk of fire, candles should be used by only a few designated adults.
  • And NEVER leave burning candles unattended!
Remember!  Candle fires are PREVENTABLE!
In the event of a fire, remember time is the biggest enemy and every second counts!
Escape first, and then call for help. Develop a home fire escape plan and practice it frequently with your family.  Designate a meeting place outside. Make sure everyone in the family knows two ways to escape from every room.
Never stand up in a fire, always crawl low under the smoke, and try to keep your mouth covered. Never return to a burning building for any reason: it may cost you your life.
Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.