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Fire Fatality Sparks Community-Based Campaign | Community Spirit

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Fire Fatality Sparks Community-Based Campaign
Fire Fatality Sparks Community-Based Campaign

For the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department this tragic incident was the first fire of calendar year 2011, the first fire fatality and the first civilian death experienced by a recently appointed Acting Chief of the Department.

At about 5:30 am, January 1, 2011, Fire/EMS units were dispatched to the 2700 block of Fairlawn Street in Temple Hills, Maryland. Units arrived to find a working fire on the first floor of the 2-story brick-style, single family home, with heavy smoke coming from the second floor. As a team of firefighters initiated an aggressive interior attack on the fire on the first floor another crew conducted a primary search of the home for occupants. An adult male was located on the second floor and immediately removed. Paramedics initiated pre-hospital emergency medical care and transported the unconscious male to an area hospital where he succumbed to his smoke injuries a short time after his arrival.

The fire was quickly contained and extinguished causing about $120,000 in estimated fire loss. The preliminary investigation indicates a space heater as a probable cause of the fire; however, the investigation is still open and on-going.

Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, a veteran member of the fire service and recently appointed to lead one of the largest and busiest combination Fire/EMS Departments in the country, has taken this loss of life very personally. He held a press conference today at the District Heights Fire/EMS Station where he announced his plans for an enhanced aggressive approach to the Department’s existing smoke alarm campaign. Bashoor stated, “In the fire service, we take any fatality personally, but this is especially poignant for me – as the first fire fatality under my watch as the County Fire Chief.” No smoke alarms were found in the home on Fairlawn Street. It is believed that had a working smoke alarm been present, this death, more than likely, would not have occurred. This appears to have been a preventable residential fire fatality.

Flanked by members of municipal governments, Houses of Worship and corporate partners Acting Fire Chief Bashoor announced the Department will work collaborate to raise the awareness of the importance of working smoke alarms in every home. Bashoor recognized our corporate partners, including, PEPCO and KIDDE, that have donated smoke alarms that have saved and will continue to save countless lives.

“Today, we will take our community initiatives in a new and exciting direction,” said Bashoor, “I am pleased to announce that we are instituting an aggressive and ongoing collaborative partnership with our community civic organizations, businesses, and religious institutions to help us to get the word out to all who live in our community. This “Safety First” Initiative will build on our existing PRIDE program to either directly or indirectly touch every residential structure in Prince George’s County in the next six months, to ensure there are sufficient working smoke detectors installed. We will ask our churches, homeowners associations, civic associations, and of course our local fire and EMS stations to immediately make this a sustained priority effort.”

Bashoor concluded the press conference by saying, “It is important for everyone to understand, that the best staffed, best equipped, and best funded Fire Department may not be able to save you in time, on their own. We must accept the personal responsibility to help ourselves, to make ourselves safety conscience and improve our home preparedness and safety.”

Representing County Executive Rushern Baker was Ms. LaVonn Thomas, Director of Community Affairs. She extended greetings from the County Executive and commended the Fire/EMS Department for taking the initiative to involve the community to help save lives.

Councilmember Karen Toles, District 7, thanked Chief Bashoor and the entire Fire/EMS Department for the services they provide every day. After the press conference, Councilmember Toles joined firefighters going door-to-door checking smoke alarms in a nearby community, just as she did on the day of the fatal fire.

Pete Pedersen of PEPCO’s Emergency Services Partnership Program was acknowledged for the continued support and donating over 6000 smoke alarms over the past six years. He was presented with a plaque from Fire Chief Bashoor in acknowledgement of PEPCO’s effort. Mr. Pedersen spoke of relationship of PEPCO and the Fire/EMS Department serving the same clients and applauded the efforts of the Department.

Pastor David Wright of “Doers of the Word” represented Prince George’s County Houses of Worship and challenged everyone to become involved and alert their congregants about fire safety and the importance of smoke alarms.

Alan L. Creveling, City of Bowie Emergency Management Resources Coordinator, spoke on behalf of municipalities and local governments in pledging their support and ongoing commitment with fire safety efforts and smoke alarms.

After the conference had concluded firefighters departed the District Heights Fire/EMS Station and conducted neighborhood saturation, going door-to-door passing out fire safety information, checking smoke alarms and if needed, provided and installed one for the resident.

Any resident may request a smoke alarm installed in their home by calling our Safety First Hotline at 301-864-SAFE.

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