Wind-Driven House Fire Injures Seven Maryland Firefighters

Two firefighters are critical, one with third-degree burns to 40% of his body.
Firefighters were trying to enter the building when a rush of air from the rear of the house created a fireball. (Billy McNeel photo)
Published Saturday, February 25, 2012

RIVERDALE, Md. (NBCWashington.com) - Seven firefighters were injured battling a blaze in Prince George’s County Friday night.

PGFD PIO: Firefighters Remain Hospitalized - Two in Critical Condition
STATter911: Latest from PGFD: Bladensburg Firefighters Sorrell & O’Toole in Critical Condition


As of Saturday morning, two firefighters remained in critical condition with burns, while a third was in good condition with bruised ribs. The other four firefighters had been released from an area hospital.

According to the Prince George's County Fire Department, 21-year-old Bladensburg Volunteer Firefighter Ethan Sorrell is in critical condition with burns to his airway. 22-year-old Kevin O'Toole, also a Bladensburg Volunteer Firefighter, is in critical condition with second and third-degree burns over 40% of his body.

Riverdale Volunteer Firefighter Michael McLary, 19, may be released as early as today after suffering bruised ribs. All three men were being treated at Washington Hospital Center.

The fire broke out shortly after 9 p.m. Friday at a single-family, single-story home in the 6400 block of 57th Street in Riverdale. Investigators say that firefighters were trying to enter the building when a rush of air from the rear of the house created a fireball that engulfed the respondents. According to Prince George's Fire Spokesman Mark Brady, the sudden rush of air was caused by either a door or window being opened or broken out.

Audio: 57th Avenue House Fire
Courtesy of ScanMD.org

In all, around 65 firefighters responded to the blaze. Of the four firefighters released, three were from Riverdale and one was from College Park.

Brady said that the home appeared to be vacant, though a car was parked in the driveway. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation and loss estimates were not immediately available.

FirefighterNation spoke with NIST's Dan Madrzykowski on wind-driven fires for related insight on the subject,

"Size-up is critical. Smoke is fuel. Adjusting fire fighting tactics to account for wind conditions in structural fire fighting is critical to enhancing the safety and the effectiveness of fire fighters.  Previous studies demonstrated that applying water from the exterior, into the upwind side of the structure can have a significant impact on controlling the fire prior to beginning interior operations.  It should be made clear that in a wind-driven fire, it is most important to use the wind to your advantage and attack the fire from the upwind side of the structure, especially if the upwind side is the burned side.  Interior operations need to be aware of potentially rapidly changing conditions."

Earlier this month NIST released its study of a Texas wind-driven fire that resulted in the death of two firefighters. You can review the full report as well as the video of simulated fire flow of that fire at "NIST Study of Fatal Texas Fire Urges Firefighters to Consider Wind Effects"

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Wind-Driven House Fire Injures Seven Maryland Firefighters

Two firefighters are critical, one with third-degree burns to 40% of his body.
Firefighters were trying to enter the building when a rush of air from the rear of the house created a fireball. (Billy McNeel photo)

Burned Maryland Firefighters Remain in Stable Condition

View more videos at: http://nbcwashington.com.


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Prince George’s County firefighters injured during the initial attack.


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Several firefighters injured while battling a vacant house fire.


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