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'Fireball' Sweeps Through Riverdale House, Injuring Seven Firefighters

The blaze occurred Friday night in a one-story house on 57th Ave.

Update, 1:49 p.m.: 

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker issued the following statement on the Friday night blaze that injured seven firefighters in Riverdale:

“My thoughts and prayers are with these brave men and their families and I ask all County residents to do the same. Our first responders put their lives on the line every day and I know that they are all effected by this tragic incident.  I appreciate their service and their commitment to our residents’ safety and security. Furthermore, I want to thank the doctors and nurses at the Washington Hospital Center burn unit for their compassion and care of these courageous men. I also want to thank the regional fire and emergency community for their thoughts, outreach and concern.”

Baker, Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, and Public Safety Director Barry Stanton were set to visit the three injured firefighters still being treated at the Washington Hospital Center on Saturday.

Meanwhile, audio from the fire department's response is available from Statter 911, and Firefighter Nation spoke with NIST's Dan Madrzykowski's about the dangers associated with wind-driven fires.

Update, 9:38 a.m.:

Three of the seven firefighters injured in Friday's Riverdale Heights house blaze remained hospitalized Saturday morning, according to a statement from the Prince George's County Fire Department.

Bladensburg volunteer firefighter Ethan Sorrell, 21, was in critical condition with burns to his airway.

Bladensburg volunteer firefighter Kevin O’Toole, 22, was in critical condition with second and third degree burns over 40 percent of his body.

Riverdale volunteer firefighter Michael McLary, 19, continued to receive treatment for injuries to his upper body and ribs, which were bruised with possible cartilage damage. He may be released as early as today.

Family members were with McLary last night and are coming from out of state to see Sorrell and O'Toole.

"Dozens of family, friends and fire service personnel have been at the hospital throughout the night with the injured firefighters and remain there today," the department said. "The Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center, their Doctors, and staff are the very best at what they do—treating burn patients."

Four other firefighters injured on Friday—three from Riverdale and one from College Park—were treated and released the same night. 

Officials are continuing their investigation into the source of the fire, which caused an estimated $75,000 to the house at 6404 57th Ave. Firefighters responded to the scene around 9:11 p.m., where they found a one-story house with heavy flames on both levels.

As they battled the blaze, a sudden gust of air swept in from rear of the house, creating "fireball-like conditions" inside. Firefighters working on the interior rushed out of the structure, but not before many were hurt. All seven of the injured were transferred to the Washington Hospital Center.

Commanders brought additional resources to the scene by requesting an EMS Task Force and a Fire Task Force. About 65 firefighters, paramedics, and incident commanders responded in all.

Officials said the fire was extinguished about 25 minutes after arrival. The house is believed to have been vacant at the time, but a car was parked in the driveway, suggesting it may have been occupied.

Original article, 10:20 p.m.:

Seven firefighters were injured—some seriously—as they battled a house fire Friday night in Riverdale Heights.

The blaze started around 9 p.m. in the 6400 block of 57th Ave., according to Prince George's County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady.

Brady said that units arrived to find the structure, a one-story home with a basement, showing heavy fire on both levels.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the flames from inside, a gust of wind swept into the house through a rear door or window, creating what Brady described as a "fireball-type conditions."

"It was just totally untenable," he said. Heavy winds buffeted the area Friday night, with gusts climbing as high as 50 mph.

Firefighters did their best to exit the house quickly, Brady said, but seven of them suffered burns, fractures, lacerations, and other injuries before escaping.

All seven were transported by ambulance or helicopter to the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center. One was said to have been injured more seriously than the others.

Brady said that all of the affected firefighters were volunteers out of the Riverdale and Bladensburg fire departments.

The house is believed to have been empty at the time the blaze began. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Patch will have more information as it becomes available.

Margaret C. James February 25, 2012 at 04:59 AM
. ... I will be praying for these 7, that they all recover without scars; & that a special scanner device would be developed that could show a 3D type image with an analysis of estimated structure collapse points/time before they'd occur so firemen/emergency personnel would have enough warning info to escape. MCJ. Florida.
Deborah Coleman February 25, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I heard all of the emergency vehicles last night but couldn't figure out exactly where they were. I pray that all of the injured firefighters recover quickly from their injuries. Bless you all.
Jenni Pompi February 25, 2012 at 02:33 PM
How terrible. My thoughts and prayers are with the fire fighters and their families. We are so fortunate to have so many brave individuals serving in our fire department. I hope they all heal well.

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