Maryland Department Conducts Staffing Review after Fatal Fire

Three closest volunteer firehouses failed to respond

(Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Company, Facebook photo)

Mike Valerio, WUSA9, with permission

NEW CARROLLTON, Md. (WUSA9) – Prince George’s County officials said the investigation into the fire that claimed the life of a beloved school bus driver is nearing completion, as a larger inquiry into why three nearby fire stations didn’t respond to the scene remains ongoing.

Anita Ellis, 57, died after her home on Inlet Street became engulfed in flames Saturday night. The three closest volunteer fire stations were unable to respond because of inadequate staffing levels, which are now the subject of a new department-wide investigation.

“All aspects of the response times and staffing that evening remain under investigation,” Michael Yourishin said, a spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Fire Department.

“We’re close to ending the investigation into what actually caused the fire,” Yourishin added, but he cautioned no timetable exists for the completion of the larger response time inquiry.

Initial fire crews arrived at the scene in the 6400 block of Inlet Street six minutes and 30 seconds after the initial dispatch, county fire officials said.

The department has a goal of five minutes and 20 seconds for the first unit to arrive.

Andrew Pantelis, President of the Prince George’s County Fire Fighters Union, said the response time could have been lower if the closest fire stations were staffed during the incident.

“If we had an opportunity to have crews arrive on the scene in a timely fashion, this incident could have a much different outcome,” Pantelis said.

FirefighterNation: Union Hits at Volunteer Staffing in Fatal Maryland Fire

Pantelis said there was a four-minute difference in the drive time between the first company and fourth company. Now, county officials are facing a larger question of whether volunteer firehouses should begin staffing full-time firefighters.

“We are doing an internal review of how we utilize staffing within the agency,” Brian Frankel, Prince George’s County Deputy Fire Chief, said. “We are looking at the challenge with the volunteer corporations that are that are struggling to maintain membership.”

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