Smoke Alarms Save Lives

For second day in a row a smoke alarm alerts residents to early morning fire

The first two weeks of 2007 have been busy for Montgomery County emergency workers in similar fashion as 2006 came to an end. Montgomery County fire fighters and emergency medical first responders were called to assist on about 100,000 incidents in 2006 and have handled nearly 4000 incidents thus far this year in 2007.

Around 4:15 a.m. on Friday, January 12, 2007 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to the report of a house fire in the 14400 block of Perrywood Drive, in Burtonsville. First arriving firefighters encountered heavy fire conditions in a large, single family home. Additional units were dispatched, including those from Prince George's County and Howard County. Approximately 50 firefighters and emergency medical technicians responded. Two firefighters were injured fighting the fire. One firefighter received non-life threatening burns and was transported to the MedStar Burn Unit, in Washington, D.C., while another suffered some ill effects from possible dehydration.

The lone occupant of the house was alerted to fire by an activated smoke alarm and a neighbor knocking on the door. She was able to exit safely. Neighbors called 9-1-1 to report the fire. Among other things the fire involved a 100 gallon propane tank that was stored in the rear, exterior of the house. The fire spread quickly. There were heavy fire conditions throughout the house when firefighters arrived. Damage was significant and is estimated to be approximately $500,000. A family of two was displaced. The Red Cross is assisting.

NOTE: This is the third major recent incident that involved a propane gas fed fire.

Around 4:35 a.m. on Thursday, January 11, 2007 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were dispatched for the report of a house fire at 8040 Brink Road, in Laytonsville. First arriving firefighters encountered heavy smoke and fire coming from the second floor and roof of a large single family house. Additional units were dispatched to assist, in addition to water tankers due to the lack of fire hydrants in the area.

Just before 4:30 a.m. they were awakened by the sound of an activated smoke alarm. The initial investigation by the father at the time found only light smoke and odor. He assumed that this was residual smoke from the fireplace use and proceeded to open some windows and doors to ventilate. As he was doing this he noticed a fire on the exterior of the house and on the roof.

He immediately alerted the rest of the occupants and they exited the house safely and eventually called 911. He then attempted to fight the fire with an extinguisher and garden hose, without success, until the fire department arrived.

Approximately 60 firefighters, equivalent to 2-alarms, were utilized on the scene. A smoke alarm activated and alerted residents. Eleven (11) occupants of the house, two adults, six children and three adult guests, evacuated safely prior to the arrival of firefighters. The children ranged in age from 11 months to 17 years old. It took firefighters about 25 minutes to 'knock down' the bulk of the fire. Two firefighters received minor injuries and were treated and released from local hospitals.

Fire Investigators determined that the origin of the fire was around the fireplace in the first floor sitting room. Some combustible interior wall components became heated and caught fire due to the extended use and resulting pyrolytic decomposition, or a chemical change in the wood that caused the fire. From the wall around the fireplace, the fire traveled to the roof area. Damage is estimated to be $275,000. The Red Cross is assisting the family.

Other fires this past week were:

In addition, six separate fire incidents that occurred over the New Year's holiday weekend (December 29 through January 1) resulted in over $1 million dollars in damage.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) is a full spectrum life safety agency protecting nearly 1 million people who live and work in Maryland's most populous jurisdiction. The MCFRS is a combination system (career/volunteer), operating with a budget of about $195 million, comprised of over 1100 career uniformed personnel and professional civilian staff and an equal number of volunteers, nearly half of whom actively participate in emergency response.