MCFRS News Release

December's Fire Loss (so far) Nears $4 Million

Improperly Placed Fireplace Ashes the Cause for $1.8 Million Dollars in Damage

Typically the winter months of December, January and February are the busiest in terms of emergency fire responses for area fire and rescue departments. Since the last week of November and so far in the month of December (14 days) fire and rescue crews have been particularly busy in Montgomery County. Estimated fire losses for the last two weeks alone exceed over $ 4.5 million dollars in damage, have resulted in one fire fatality, injured several citizens and have displaced dozens of persons and many families.

Around 8:45 p.m. on Friday, November 24, 2006 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to the Highland House Apartments, located at 5480 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase for a fire on the 7th floor. Dozens of firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire. Several people were rescued and many others were assisted from the high-rise building by firefighters, an elderly resident succumbed to her injuries and died. Fire Investigators believe the cause of the fire was accidental and caused by smoking materials. She was the fourth (4th) residential fire fatality of the year in Montgomery County. Damage was estimated to be $10,000. 

The next day, shortly afternoon on November 25, 2006 firefighters were called to the 8100 block of Crabapple Lane, in Emory Grove for a fire in a townhouse. An improperly discarded cigarette caused a fire in a basement bedroom that resulted in over $30,000 dollars in damage and sent three persons to the hospital. Several days later, on November 27, 2006 a house fire in Glen Echo Heights on Wiscasset Road resulted in over $400,000 dollars in damage. A family of 5 was displaced.

On November 28, 2006 a kitchen fire in a 9th floor apartment at the Charter House Apartments located at 1316 Fenwick Lane, in Silver Spring was extinguished by the activation of a residential sprinkler. There were no injuries and damage was minimal. On the following day, November 29, 2006 a broken seal on a water pump supplying the domestic water at the Charter House failed and resulted in a significant water leak and flood. The fire department coordinated the evacuation of hundreds of residents whom were displaced by the affected shut down of the building’s utilities.

And during the first week of December several fires in Rockville, Silver Spring and Gaithersburg have kept firefighters more than busy, displaced several families and resulted in nearly $4 million dollars in damage.

Most recently, on Wednesday, December 6, 2006 about 75 firefighters responded to 11,351 Morning Gate Drive, at the Fallstone Townhouses, in Rockville. Improperly placed fireplace ashes caused a townhouse fire that resulted in 5 families being displaced and resulted in nearly $2 million dollars in damage. On Monday, December 4, 2006 a car crashed into a building at 241 Congressional Lane, in Rockville that resulted in a 3-Alarm building fire. Several residents were injured. Damage was estimated to be over $1.8 million dollars. About 12 people were displaced.

Again, the cold weather months are typically the busiest. So far, December 2006 is no exception:

Summary of recent significant responses:

Recent fires have often been the result of food left cooking unwatched, candles left burning unattended, combustibles too close to a heating system, discarded smoking materials, misplaced fireplace ashes and a malfunction with heating systems. Dried out Christmas trees could pose an additional fire hazard this time of year, too. Improperly discarded smoking materials and careless smoking have been the primary cause of this year’s fire deaths. Many of these fires can be prevented.

It is important that all residents know to have a working smoke alarm on each level of a home, have an escape plan (know how to get out quickly) and call the fire department from a safe area, preferably a neighbor’s house.

Dangerous time of year –

Fire Safety Tips –