5-Alarm First Due Apartment Building Fire
At around 0935 on Monday April 24th, 2017 the box alarm was sounded for 4700 Berwyn House Rd. (about 2 blocks from Co. 12) for a report of a building under construction with multiple callers advising the top floor was on fire. Chief 12 arrived within moments and reported heavy fire from the 5th floor of a 6-story type V-A building under construction and established the Berwyn House Rd. Command.
Truck 12 was staffed at the time of the call but was on the air out of the first due completing routine tasks thus were not initially dispatched. Ambulance 128 (two volunteers) and Engine 122 (five volunteers and two career personnel) were immediately able to immediately be staffed and were added to the call by command. Command arrived and requested the second alarm immediately due to the condition of the building being under construction, volume of fire and the type of construction.
Engine 122 arrived and positioned to allow the first due truck access to the fire area and secured their own hydrant while the crew advanced standpipe racks into the building to mount an interior attack. Chief 12A arrived and was assigned to be the Division 5 supervisor operating with E122, Tk14 and E72 on the fire floor. While the attack line was being put in place and the standpipe system was charged, units controlled the door to the fire apartment to prevent fire from extending into the common hallway and evacuated remaining workers in the stairwell.
Engine 122’s driver and another member darkened down the rapidly extending fire with the wagon pipe per command while the interior line was put in position and charged. As soon as the system was charged, the initial line from E122 made the fire apartment with a combined career and volunteer crew and extinguished several rooms of fire while the truck searched and opened up for the 2 attack lines working the fire apartment.
The remainder of the box alarm units worked together to complete searches on division 5 in the area of the fire apartment and went to the floor above to check for extension. As units began the task of opening up on the floor above, fire was found in the void spaces and units began extinguishing fire in the attic space above the top floor.
This task was complicated by 12′ ceilings in the top floor apartments and double-ply drywall on the ceiling. Second alarm units were brought into the scene and began to assist with the fire running the attic space however fire had already taken hold of a large part of the attic which was made of open wood trusses, not yet protected by the building sprinkler system. Command ordered the evacuation of the top 2 floors of the building and ladder pipe and tower ladder operations were initiated. Subsequently, the 3rd, 4th and 5th alarms along with other special calls were requested to help control the fire.
It is impossible to recognize the actions and hard work of all units on the scene, but all worked valiantly to stop the spread of fire across the roof by making the trench cut and utilizing the building fire wall to stop the fire from consuming the attic and roof area on the bravo side of the building and getting aerial devices and master streams into the best position available to be effective. Chief 12 retained command for the initial duration of the incident and was assisted by many members of the command staff of the PGFD.
Ultimately, fire loss is estimated just shy of 40 million dollars and the incident has been declared one of the largest in Prince George’s County history. Many other pictures and videos of the incident have been posted and can be seen on our social media pages. Units continue to remain on the scene at this time while the cause of the fire is still under investigation and hot spots and flare-ups are periodically doused. A huge thank you to all of the support the fire department received during this incident from our community, the auxiliary canteen units, our mutual aid partners, local businesses and everyone else who pitched in and played a part.