Updated Information on Beltsville Fatal House Fire, 2018 Fire Fatalities and Smoke Alarm Law

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

Additional details about a Beltsville house fire on Friday, May 12, 2018 are being made available as well as 2018 fire fatalities and a reminder of the smoke alarm mandate in Prince George’s County.

Neighbors called 911 and reported a house on fire at 11405 Howard Court in Beltsville at 3:32 am, Saturday, May 12th.  Firefighters arrived at 3:35 am reporting fire showing.  The homeowner was found inside the house by firefighters shortly after arrival and removed to the front yard where she was pronounced deceased.

The 2-story with basement, approximately 1560 square feet, single-family house was built in 1920.  This was the original farmhouse for the surrounding acres that were later sold to developers that built homes on the property.

No smoke alarms were found in the house.

The deceased has been identified as Sally Ann Quesenberry, 35 years-of-age, from Beltsville.  She is also listed as the property owner.

The cause and origin of the fire remains undetermined.  Additional information is pending completion and release of the autopsy report.

This incident is the 7th this calendar year involving fire related fatalities.  Nine residents have perished in home fires so far in 2018.  The common denominators appears to be a lack of working smoke alarms or only one working smoke alarm in the home that provided no warning due to location of alarm versus location of fire and residents.  The youngest deceased was 35 years of age.  7 of the 9 deceased were age 70 and older.  These cases remain under investigation.

February 11 – 6000 block of North Hilmar Circle in District Heights.
No working smoke alarms in home.  Deceased: 84 years-of-age.

March 8 – 500 block of Round Tree Drive in Fort Washington.
No working smoke alarms in home.  Deceased: 75 and 80 years-of-age.

March 11 – 4200 block of Monroe Street in Colmar Manor.
No working smoke alarms in house.  Deceased: 70 years-of-age.

March 22 – 3400 block of Eastern Avenue in Mount Rainier.
1 working smoke alarm in basement.  Fire and occupants on upper floors.
Deceased: 83 and 87 years-of-age.

April 10 – 4600 Brookfield Drive in Suitland.
Working smoke alarm was present.  Deceased: 50 year-of-age.

April 14 – 1400 block of Ray Road in Chillum.
1 working smoke alarm on lower level.  Fire and occupant on upper level.
Deceased: 70 years-of-age.

May 12 – 10400 block of Howard Court in Beltsville.
No working smoke alarms in house.  Deceased: 35 years-of-age.

Smoke Alarm Requirements

A new law went into full effect on January 1, 2018.  This Maryland Law states that a smoke alarm shall be present and working on every level of your home.  Once your current 9-volt battery powered alarm reaches its 10-year life span than it shall be replaced with a 10-year, sealed long life battery, with hush feature smoke alarm.

At the very minimum each home shall have a smoke alarm (9-volt or 10-year) on every level of their home located just outside of sleeping areas.

If you have a home; recently constructed, rented or recently purchased, there should already be 10-year alarms on every level of your home and in every bedroom.  You are required to maintain these alarms and ensure they work.

While older homes are not required to maintain smoke alarms in bedrooms, the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department strongly encourage everyone to install 10-year smoke alarms in every bedroom and to sleep with bedroom doors closed.

This new law is a law we can live with.

Why has the Law changed?? 

3 out of 5 fire fatalities occur in homes that are not protected by working smoke alarms. Many of these unprotected homes did not have a smoke alarm or a smoke alarm was found to be nonworking due to a lack of batteries or a dead battery. The use of 10-year smoke alarms will save lives. It’s a law we can live with. 

The County Law states that I need just 1 smoke alarm. Why do I need to follow the Maryland Law?? 

The State Law supersedes the County Law. We will work towards changing the language in the County Law to match the State Law; however, we must follow the State Law. 

What type of smoke alarm should I purchase and install?? 

10-year, long life, sealed battery, alarm with hush feature. 
The hush feature will allow you to silence an accidental alarm for up to 10 minutes before turning itself back on. The hush feature will eliminate the need to remove the smoke alarm and its battery. 

Where can I purchase the 10-year alarm?? 

All home improvement stores in Prince George’s County sell the 10-year alarm.

If you choose to order on-line; ensure you are purchasing a 10-year, sealed battery, with hush features smoke alarm. A 10-year guarantee does not always mean it’s a 10-year alarm. 

How can I tell the manufacture date of my smoke alarm?? 

You will need to remove the smoke alarm off of its base and examine the writing on the back of the alarm. The expiration date should be in clear view. If you cannot find the expiration date consider it at least 10 years old and replace it with a new 10-year, tamper proof battery, with hush feature. 

I just installed a 9-volt battery smoke alarm in my house 2 years ago. The manufacture date is April 2015. Do I need to replace this alarm?? 

No, you are in compliance. Remember to replace your alarm when the 10-year life of your smoke alarm is set to expire. 

I live in a 2-story single family home with a basement. How many smoke alarms do I need?? 

If your home is currently protected by a 9-volt battery powered smoke alarm you will need to have a new 10-year smoke alarm installed on every level of your home so you will need a total of three. 

The Fire/EMS Department highly recommends you install a 10-year smoke alarm in every bedroom as well and sleep with your door closed. 

I currently have one 9-volt battery powered smoke alarm in my house. I don’t recall when the smoke alarm was installed?? 

If you cannot determine the manufacture date of your current smoke alarm it is best to replace it with a new 10-year smoke alarm. Remember, you must install a new 10-year alarm on every level of your home. 

I have hardwired smoke alarms in my house. Does the new law affect me?? 

Yes, even the hardwired smoke alarms have an expiration date. Check the back of your alarms for an expiration date. If they are close to 10 years old or older you need to replace them with a new hardwired alarm with a 10-year battery backup. 

It is important to remember to replace your hardwired alarms with a new one with similar features. For example; if your hardwired alarms are interconnected, when one sounds an alarm, all of your alarms will also sound an alarm. 

Will the Fire Department issue a fine if I don’t have the proper smoke alarms?? 

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department will not issue a fine or penalty if homeowners are found to be in non-compliance. We will have a passive enforcement policy on residences whereas we will install a new smoke alarm for you instead of issuing you a citation. 

The Department will continue to closely monitor apartment buildings, commercial buildings and homebuilders to ensure they are installing the appropriate alarms and are in compliance with all applicable fire safety laws. Any violations of the Law will be handled through management and our Fire Prevention office. 

Do I need to install new smoke alarms in my bedrooms?? 

If you are residing in a home you own, the Fire/EMS Department highly recommends you install 10-year smoke alarms in every bedroom and sleep with your bedroom doors closed. 
Rental properties are required to maintain smoke alarms in all bedrooms. 
Newly constructed homes are sold with hardwired smoke alarms that are interconnected. 
Never disconnect hardwired alarms as they are required by building code. 

Where should I install the new 10-year smoke alarms?? 

Same area as your previous smoke alarms. Primarily just outside of sleeping areas on ceilings or high on the wall. 

What are insurance company consequences if I have a fire in my house and I’m not in compliance with new smoke alarm law?? 

This unfortunate circumstance is out of our area of responsibility and is between you and your insurance company. It is best to avoid this situation by complying with the law and maintain 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature smoke alarms on every level of your home. 

I purchased new 10-year smoke alarms but I am having difficulty installing the alarms. Who can help me?? 

If you call 311 and explain the situation, a firefighter will call you to set up a convenient time for them to come by your house. They will install your smoke alarms for you at no charge. 

Does the Fire/EMS Department provide free 10-year smoke alarms?? 

Yes, the Fire/EMS Department has been providing free smoke alarms to residents for nearly 40 years. Through generous donations from private entities like PEPCO and the American Red Cross we can provide and install one free smoke alarm per residence. In most cases this will not bring you into compliance with having a smoke alarm on every level of your home. The firefighters installing your free alarm will advise you of your responsibility to install additional alarms. 

To take advantage of this opportunity simply call 311 and ask about the Fire/EMS Department smoke alarm program. 

I live in an apartment, condo or rental property and there are still 9-volt battery smoke alarms. What should I do?? 

You should contact our Fire Prevention office and register a complaint. This is a serious violation of the law and our fire inspectors will inspect and follow-up with complex management. 

Our Fire Prevention can be contacted at 301-583-1830