Three closest firehouses were out of service
By Stephanie Ramirez, FOX5, with permission
NEW CARROLLTON, Md. (FOX5) – A Maryland firefighter’s union is waving a red flag on staffing after a woman died from injuries sustained in a Prince George’s County fire on Saturday night.
Images posted to social media by the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department show their members battling large flames that poured out of the top floor of a home on the 6400 block of Inlet St., in what’s being called the West Lanham Hills neighborhood in New Carrollton.
“The caller’s advising two people possible inside, in the basement, in the basement,” a dispatcher is heard saying in fire radio recordings found on Open MHz.
The call came in after 6 p.m. Saturday evening. Two people were rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Officials later confirmed one person died in the blaze.
A family member at the scene the next morning described the victim as a loving mother who, the relative says, worked as a bus driver. Family members have been sharing photos, morning the woman’s loss on Facebook.
It’s a loss of life, unionized firefighters are now arguing, may have been prevented.
“I mean we can’t say that with certainty,” said IAFF 1619 President Andrew Pantelis. “If our first due engine companies were adequately staffed with fire firefighters and paramedics around the clock, you know we may be talking about a different situation here and a better outcome.”
The county’s fire fighter union issued a statement claiming that crews were delayed in responding to the Saturday night fire because the closest three firehouses were out of service due to no staffing. Pantelis identified those three as all volunteer fire departments. He said on camera it took around 11 minutes to respond after the 9-1-1 call — about 7 minutes after the dispatch call.
“That four minute delay throughout that time, that fire was able to double in intensity and make it, not only more dangerous for the citizens and more untenable for the citizens inside, but also for our firefighters that are responding to the scene,” said Pantelis. He told FOX 5 that for several years, the Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters has been “sounding alarms” regarding what he called a “lack of response” in the area of Inlet St.
“It’s unacceptable that we don’t provide an adequate number of first responders to respond to these types of emergencies in a timely fashion,” he added.
FOX 5 immediately reached out to PGFD for a response. A PGFD Spokesperson is expected to provide an update later in the day on Sunday.
The Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department says it was one of the first units to respond to the Saturday night fire and posted more video on Sunday, showing the intense situation firefighters were up against. Part of the Facebook post reads:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and [their] family. A few firefighters sustained Burns over the course of the incident but they are all very minor in nature. Exterior crews were able to provide ventilation ladders and everything necessary to support the interior crews while working through this incident. Units remained on scene for approximately four hours before returning to service. This was the fourth working fire for a company nine in three days.”