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Man Arrested in Arson Case in North College Park

According to the Prince George’s Fire Department, a man was arrested for setting fire to a North College Park commercial strip center early yesterday morning. Just before 2:00 am, Friday, December 14th, firefighters arrived at the scene of a 1-story commercial structure that several businesses occupy in the 10000 block of Rhode Island Avenue. Units arrived to find fire showing from a middle of the row business. The well-advanced fire extended to attached businesses on both sides before being extinguished.

The building of origin is a mental health facility going by the name of “On Our Own”.

The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. Personnel form the Fire/EMS Department Office of the Fire Marshal determined the fire was incendiary in nature. Fire loss was estimated at $250,000.

Shortly after firefighters arrived on the scene a suspect was identified and taken into custody by law enforcement officials.
The suspect, Paul Franklin Willis 3rd (DOB 01/24/1981) of no fixed address, has been charged with starting the fire at 10007 Rhode Island Avenue. Charges include:

Arson- Second Degree (Felony)
Malicious Burning- First Degree (Felony)
Malicious Burning- Second Degree (Misdemeanor)
Reckless Endangerment (Misdemeanor)
Additional charges are pending.

Fire Destroys North College Park Home, Displaces Family of Four

A family of four is displaced by a house fire yesterday morning in north College Park. The fire started at a home in the 5000 block of Muskogee Street.

Fortunately, none of the occupants (including their pet dog) were injured. City staff has contacted the family to check their wellbeings. County Emergency Management is arranging temporary housing through Red Cross. House has been secured and boarded up by insurance contractor.

New Smoke Detector Law Takes Effect Jan. 1

The new Maryland law requires people with smoke detectors that run off of 9-volt batteries to install new ones that have a 10-year lifespan.

The measure looks to prevent casualties from older fire alarms with dead batteries. Officials said homeowners will typically remove batteries to silence an alarm when its low-battery chirp begins, but often forget to put new batteries into the device. The new alarms are sealed, making them tamper-resistant, and have a “hush” feature that will temporarily silence it during a non-emergency situation.

The new alarms will automatically reset after a few minutes, and in the case of an actual fire, the silence feature will be overridden. The low-battery chirp will only sound when the alarm is reaching the end of its 10-year lifespan and needs to be replaced

College Park Fire Causes $40M Loss: Here is What We Know

Yesterday’s fire in College Park on Berwyn House Road at the Fuse complex has caused quite a bit of discussion in the community. Here is what we know and a list of questions / concerns we have. I’ll update the list as I know more:

  • The fire caused nearly $40M in damage, probably the largest in PG Fire Department’s history. This incident has been the largest suppression effort and the highest fire loss estimate in the history of the Fire/EMS Department, according to the PGFD.
  • The Fuse 47 building was slated to have about to 250 apartments, retail stores and a parking garage and was scheduled for occupancy in July 2017.
  • Fire fighters were alerted at about 9:35 am, Monday, April 24.
  • The fire started on the 6th floor of the 7 story building
  • 5 Alarms were sounded with over 200 firefighters and medics working to extinguish the fire that consumed the roof of the city block long building until mid afternoon when the fire was considered contained and under control.
  • The fire forced the relocation of 68 residents of the senior city building across the street to relocate.  Residents of the Gladys Spellman House were relocated to the College Park Community Center to avoid the smoke that filled their building.
  • Fire hoses pumped 650 gallons of water per minute for more than five hours, with the weight of the water potentially causing the building — which is currently only supported by wood — to collapse floor by floor, Brady said at the briefing.The fire took so long to control because only one ladder truck was able to access the back of the building, where the fire was located
  • The cause of the fire still unknown

The fire took so long to control because only one ladder truck was able to access the back of the building, where the fire was located. We’ll look into ways we can improve the situation so that this kind of incidents do not happen again.

That said, I want to thank many brave firefighters for doing an excellent job in bringing the fire under control.

Volunteer with Branchville Fire Fighters

Branchville Fire Department serves north College Park and runs 100% on volunteers. Unlike other neighboring fire departments, they don’t have any career fire fighters. They need our help with recruitment. Please consider volunteering and spread the word..

Come to their firehouse and learn if you have what it takes to become a Volunteer Firefighter or EMT. Members will be on hand to answer any of you questions. More here


Your Community Needs You – Consider Volunteering with Fire Departments

This website ( and video are online now for anyone interested in volunteering with any of the volunteer Fire/EMS departments in the County. The video includes interviews with volunteers from Branchville, College Park, and Berwyn Heights stations. There is a click on feature to get contact information from your station of interest. Please consider volunteering and spread the word.

Council to Discuss Staffing Issues at the Branchville Fire Department

Branchville Fire Department

In next week’s worksession, teh City Council will discuss the recent staffing issues at the Branchville Fire Volunteer Fire Department.

Recent reassignment of County Fire/EMS career staff from the Branchville VFC&RS station has resulted in that station being staffed solely by volunteers. The College Park VFD and Berwyn Heights VFD stations continue to have weekday career staffing. The County advanced life support (ALS) “medic” unit stationed at CPVFD is staffed 24/7.

Berwyn Heights, Branchville, and College Park fire stations are the three stations with first due response assignments in most of the City. These are the volunteer stations which are provided annual City support grants. Council Members have heard reports regarding the impact of staff changes on response to calls for service from the community and increased demand on adjacent stations when BVFC & RS is not available. Council has also heard of various ideas for future station relocations or

County Fire/EMS Chief Bashoor, and Volunteer Chiefs Corrigan (CPVFD), Leizear (BVFC&RS), and McCoy (BHVFD) have been invited to participate in the Council work session on 4 March 14. They will be able to provide accurate and current information to the Council regarding staffing, service demands, and future facility and staffing plans.


UPDATE: Person Dies in Fire Incident in Sunnyside Skate Park

Fire incident at Sunnyside Skate Park

UPDATE (5:25 pm) : County’s Fire department is now saying the person has died from his injuries. It’s a very tragic event for all of us. More here.

s some of you probably know, an unfortunate incident happened early this morning at the Sunnyside Skate Park. A man in his 20’s suffered serious burn injury and was flown to hospital. Authorities are currently investigating the incident as a possible ‘attempted suicide’.

We’ll keep you posted as we find more.

You can read more about the incident here on the CBS News:

Palco Place Fire Claims One Life

Fire at Palco place (Source: PGFD Chief)

A major fire broke out around 5 am this morning at a house on the 5200 block of Palco Place in the Sunnyside neighborhood. I was on the scene this morning and spoke with Mark Brady of the Prince George’s Police’s Public relation department. A few minutes ago, he told me that a male person was confirmed dead. The police is going to confirm the identity of the deceased after an autopsy is conducted. I’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

An 80-year-old woman in the home was able to get out of the house. She was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and was in serious condition as of Sunday morning. An elderly person is still missing from the house.

Nearly 100 firefighters were involved in the incident. The entire Palco Place and some major part of Paducah Rd. were blocked by fire trucks, and police vehicles.

I met with a couple of residents there and found them visibly shocked. The residents at the house moved there in early 60’s. Many of the neighbors around the house moved there around the same time.

I am still waiting to know the cause of this unfortunate fire incident, but the fire fighters told me they found excessive amount of materials (mostly documents in boxes) inside the house which  prevented them to move inside the house and operate there quickly. This is certainly a good lesson for us to take. It might be better to sell instead of rebuilding a house after a fire.

Here are a few pictures from the incident that I took this morning. Fire Cheif Marc Bashoor tweeted these pictures early in the morning. The Prince George’s Fire Department has posted a short clip of the  incident here.

Removal of Branchville Firefighters Likely to Go Ahead

Branchville Fire Company

In last nights Council worksession, we discussed the planned removal of 4 career firefighters from Branchville Fire EMS station.

Recently, the City received word that the County will be removing the full-time career staff personnel from the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) as well as three other VFD’s from around the County as of March 1, 2013.

As we’ve found out since, the reason for doing this is due to negotiations with the union representing the career fire staff and out of safety concerns. As Chief Bashoor explained, safety standards require that, if a fire truck goes to respond to a fire, there should at minimum be four staff on that truck so that, once they arrive at the fire, two people can go inside the building and two people can stay outside to watch and support the others as needed.

In order to meet these safety requirements at all fire stations where there are career personnel, the County is shifting career personnel out of these four stations and moving them to other stations that have career personnel but that are generally understaffed. The four stations were selected based on which stations have at least six other stations within a 7-minute maximum response time parameter.

At last week’s NCPCA meeting, residents raised a number of concerns about the proposal, including whether the other stations in the area have the capacity to pick up the additional calls when, as well may happen when there are no career staff available to assist with answering calls, the Branchville volunteers are not able to respond to a call.

Also, as happened about 10 years ago when the county removed career staff from Branchville, there is a concern that the added burden would cause a strain on the existing volunteers. The last time this happened, some volunteers burnt out and left as a result. We hope that, if we are unable to prevent this plan from moving forward, that the plan will be temporary and that the County can put the resources into the Fire/EMS program to provide adequate staff at all fire stations.

From the discussion last night, it looks like the move is going to take place in early next month. However, Chief Bashoor told us he is looking at possible relocation of Branchville Fire EMS up north, some where close to north College Park. This will be along process, which depends on the approval of County’s budget in its CIP funds etc. I will keep you posted as things move in that direction.

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