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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PGFD Assistant Fire Chief is American Legion "National Firefighter of the Year"

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

For extreme personal risk and the highest degree of judgment, zeal and ingenuity, on April 26, 2017, County Executive Rushern Baker, III and Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale bestowed on Assistant Fire Chief Darren O. Ware the Fire/EMS Department’s Gold Medal of Valor.  He was honored for his quick thinking and heroic efforts that saved the life of a female victim who was experiencing a medical emergency while trapped inside her burning SUV.  

The award was presented at the 40th Annual Public Safety Valor Awards. 

For Assistant Fire Chief Ware, Wednesday April 20, 2016, was challenging from the onset, as the Department was conducting funeral services for a member killed in the line of duty.  Additionally, he was tasked with coordinating mutual aid resources and ensuring that personnel who do not work in our system or typically work together could do so safely and efficiently.  Finally, upon concluding his shift and heading home, Chief Ware noticed smoke on the road ahead of him and suspected it was likely a vehicle fire.  

Nearing the incident, Chief Ware’s suspicion of a vehicle fire was confirmed.  He was surprised, however, to discover an adult female driver still inside.  After contacting Public Safety Communications for resources, he attempted to remove the victim from the vehicle.  His efforts were unsuccessful, as all four doors were locked; and the woman was unresponsive to his instruction to open the door.  With the fire beneath the vehicle was growing larger and progressing into the free burning phase, Chief Ware realized the increasing urgency of the situation.  He hurriedly returned to his vehicle, surveying the immediate area and hoping to find an object suitable to force entry into the SUV.  Things were happening quickly, but to Chief Ware it seemed like eternity in the face of the life-threatening situation confronting the victim. 
Retired Fire/EMS Department Lieutenant Colonel Tyrone Wells, also returning from the funeral, spied the incident and stopped to provide assistance.  A construction tool belonging to an unidentified bystander was used in a second attempt to access the SUV.  Forcible entry was in progress when the victim inadvertently stepped on the gas pedal, driving the vehicle down the slope and off the shoulder of the road.  The fire was now at a difficult angle with extension into the engine compartment, posing greater peril to an already demanding situation.  The SUV’s new position had rendered the driver’s side inaccessible.  It was imperative to affect this rescue immediately or prepare for a tragic outcome.  Chief Ware and Colonel Wells, with the bystander’s help, managed to get down the slope and access the passenger side of the vehicle. 

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department isn’t the only organization to commend Chief Ware’s heroism, as he was also named the American Legion’s “2017 National Firefighter of the Year”.  Notification of this honor came from George Wehrli, Chairman of the American Legion National Law and Order Committee, who stated, “To maintain law and order” is one of the major objectives included in the American Legion’s Preamble to its Constitution.  As a National winner, you personify the meaning of America’s Bravest.  I wish you continued success in your career and look forward to meeting you at the National Convention.”

In July, Chief Ware will travel to Ocean City, Maryland, where he will be honored by the American Legion at the state level.  The following month, he will attend the organization’s 99th National Convention in Reno, Nevada, for the presentation of the National Firefighter of the Year Award at the National Commander’s Banquet. 

In January 2017, Chief Ware was awarded “Career Fire Fighter of the Year” by the Knights of Columbus Sacred Heart Council No. 2577.  In addition, in March 2017, the Largo-Kettering Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States awarded him “Outstanding Firefighter of the Year,” and the “National Firefighters Citation”.  

Congratulations, Assistant Fire Chief Darren! Your actions reflect well on you personally and professionally and exemplify the excellent caliber of service we strive to provide to the residents of Prince George’s County

County Executive Baker, AFC Ware and Fire Chief Barksdale at recent Valor Award presentation.
Image by Matt Fisher, PGPD
AFC Ware and Tyrone Wells at Valor Award presentation. Image by Matt Fisher, PGPD

Office of the MD State Fire Marshal - "Preventing Arson at Houses of Worship"



      STATEWIDE (May 5, 2017) – National Arson Awareness Week will be in full swing from May 7th through May 13th this year.  The theme for this year’s awareness campaign focuses on protecting houses of worship from intentional fires through prevention.  The honorable Governor Larry Hogan has proclaimed May 7 – 13, 2017 as National Arson Awareness Week in Maryland.
       Deputy State Fire Marshals are currently going to houses of worship in the communities they are assigned in order to promote prevention efforts and risk assessments in and around the sacred properties.  
       Arson is the act of deliberately setting fire to a building, car or other property for fraudulent or malicious purposes and is a crime in all states.  Insurers have an interest in preventing and detecting arson because such fires cause needless loss of life and property and also push up the cost of insurance.
      Great strides have been made in fighting arson since the 1973 report; “America Burning” raised awareness of arson losses and led to a decade of action that marked the beginning of a cooperative national effort to combat the crime.  Some of the achievements of the four decades since are improved training in arson detection, the establishment of insurer-administered computerized databases of property claims to help identify suspicious fires, the formation of special units in insurance companies to investigate suspected arson and state laws allowing the free exchange of information between insurers and law enforcement agencies without the threat of civil suits for libel or violation of privacy.
1.   In every place of worship the most important single measure is for a particular individual to take         responsibility for security.  Responsibility may be delegated to another member i.e. secretary,             administrator or a member of the congregation.
2.  The person responsible needs to carry out their own "risk assessment" of the property to identify        ways in which intruders, thieves or vandals could start fires.  Determine what the effect would be        and how to prevent or reduce the risk.  Help is available from the insurer of the place of worship,        Office of the State Fire Marshal, local county or city fire marshal and local police department.
3.  If there have been any small fires or malicious damage to the church or in the locality (there may        be an arsonist at work), inform the authorities immediately. A small fire could be the warning of          worse to come.
Please refer to these general tips to help curb the likeliness of an intentionally set fire:
Security - 
1.    Restricted entry - It is often the case that when the church is unoccupied the door is locked.              Where it is required to keep the place of worship open it is recommended that someone is on the        premises. This may be achieved by having a roster of members willing to give up an hour or so          of their time to act as "caretaker". Arrangements have to be made for passing on the key and for        return of the key at the end of the day to the person in charge. Never hide keys or leave keys on        the premises.
2.    Doors and windows should of good repair and locked when not in use.
3.    Walls, gates and fences should be of good repair.
Halls, Community Centers -
1.    These areas tend to be targets for thieves and vandals. Ensure that doors and windows are                securely locked after use, keys returned to the person in charge and provide a general inspection        before the last person leaves.
2.     Valuables, as much as possible, should be securely locked away.
3.     Worship offices when not in use must be kept locked.  These are areas where many arson fires         occur.
4.     If appropriate enlist the help of neighbors in keeping an eye open for suspicious behavior.
5.     Sheds/outbuildings may contain tools, (which help intruders to break into places of worship) or           flammable liquids to help an intruder start a fire. Keep outbuildings securely locked.
Good housekeeping -
1.     Vandals or thieves (to cover their tracks) will use any "fuel" available to light fires.
2.     Try to ensure there is no combustible material lying around for an arsonist. This is particularly             important where churches are used for recreational and educational uses and in church halls.
3.     Don't let trash or dry vegetation accumulate - inside or outside the church.  
4.     Matches, candles, and fuels can all be used to start a fire and help it spread. Keep all such               materials locked away.
Equipment -
1.     Intruder alarm which will sound an audible warning and which should preferably be linked via a supervised central alarm. 
2.     Fire extinguishers for use by people on the spot who are trained in their use.
3.     Security lighting - Intruders like to work in the dark. Security lighting of areas adjacent to doors           or windows can be a powerful deterrent.
4.     CCTV Installation of one or more closed-circuit-television cameras well act as a deterrent to               intruders.

Prince George'sCounty Fire/EMS Arson Tip Line 301-77-ARSON (301-772-7766) 

VIDEO: Fire Safety at Your House of Worship - Arson Awareness Week