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Friday, December 11, 2009


The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department sincerely hopes for all citizens and residents to enjoy a festive and fire safe Holiday Season. Traditionally, this is a time of the year when families and friends gather for food, fun, and festivities in celebration of the season. Over the years, the Fire/EMS Department has seen joyous occasions turn quickly into tragedies. The Holiday Season should not negate the practice of good, commonsense fire safety and injury prevention habits. Nationally, more than 300 residential fires involving holiday trees occur annually, resulting in approximately 14 deaths and 40 injuries. “However,” says County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones, “A live holiday tree in the home can be safe if citizens and residents follow guidelines for fire safety.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, about four of every ten holiday tree-related residential fires are caused by an electrical problem or malfunction. One out of every four, or twenty-four percent, holiday tree-related residential fires are the result of a heat source placed too close to the tree.

Safety and Holiday Decorations

Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend, not break, and should be difficult to pull off the branches.

Cut off about two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly.

Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.

Choose electric decorations that are tested and labeled as fire resistant. Electric decorations and artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label. Inspect your previously used decoration carefully, checking for broken wiring, plugs or sockets.

Use no more than three light sets connected to each other.

Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs or furniture.

Turn off and unplug all electric decorations at night and when away.

Never leave candles unattended and NEVER use real candles on your tree.

Install and maintain a working smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every bedroom.

Winter Fire Safety and Injury Prevention

Statistically, the cold winter months are the busiest for firefighters. The leading causes of fires during this time of year are related to citizens and residents trying to stay warm at home. Firefighters are concerned that the decrease in available funds to heat your home this winter might drive residents to use supplemental heating sources, whenever possible. That equates to a busier than normal season for firefighters. Fireplaces and space heaters can make a room toasty, but the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department urges citizens and residents to “think fire-safety first,” and exercise caution when using these devices. Prince George’s County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones, stated, “The most effective way to fight a fire is to prevent it from ever happening.”

Consider using a newer model space heater that have safety devices built-in.

Give space heaters space - use a 3-foot distance between the space heater and any materials that could ignite.

Have furnaces and fireplaces clean and in good working order. It is recommended to have chimmneys cleaned and furnaces inspected annually.

Consider the gift of a smoke alarm for the Holidays. No other gift sends the message that says, “I care for you and want you to stay safe.” Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department will install a smoke alarm in your home, free of charge. Please call our Livable Communities Smoke Alarm Hotline at 301-864-SAFE.

Truck Driver Escapes Injury Despite Crushed Cab

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

On Thursday, December 10, 2009, at about 5:00 PM, Firefighters and Paramedics responded to a report of a motor vehicle crash. Fire/EMS units arrived on the scene of the Outer Loop of Route 495 (Capital Beltway) just north of the Pennsylvania Avenue (Route 4) interchange. A tractor trailer loaded with 45 to 50,000 lbs. of lumber from North Carolina was making its way to Loyola, PA. The adult male driver stated he was travelling at 50 -55 mph when traffic suddenly stopped. The driver stated, "I jammed on the brakes as hard as I could and did not think I was going to be able to stop". The truck stopped without striking any vehicles, however, the load didn't. It went straight ahead over the cab, crushing the cab and bending the tractor in a "U". Rescue Squad 827, Morningside, was able to gain access to the driver using their heavy duty hydraulic tools and equipment. Once the door was removed, a limited medical exam was performed and the driver was uninjured. He self extricated through what was left of his doorway. He was thoroughly examined by paramedics and he eventually refused transport, against medical advice. According to Incident Commander Battalion Chief Ron Bridges; “The truck driver was fortunate to have escaped without injury based on what I saw was left of the cab of the truck.”

The load of lumber was spread across all lanes of traffic on the Outer Loop which temporarily closed the Beltway until the scene was cleared. The Fire/EMS Departments Hazardous-Materials Team cleaned up diesel fuel from one of the trucks saddle tanks which was damaged by part of the load. The State Highway Administration ensured the area was clear of debris and started traffic moving again. The Maryland State Police-Forestville Barracks investigated the crash.

Attached photos are by Brooks Howard, Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant, PGFD