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Arson fire that injured seven firefighters unsolved


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Published on: Friday, October 12, 2012

By Jim Davis

Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department is still investigating an arson fire that injured seven Prince George’s County volunteer firefighters on Feb. 24.

“The investigation is still ongoing, and we are still seeking the help from the community for any information regarding the fire,” said Mark Brady, chief spokesman for the fire department.

The fire was reported just after 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24. When firefighters arrived at the vacant one-story house in the 5300 block of 57th Avenue in Riverdale Heights, they encountered heavy fire and smoke.

Seven firefighters from Riverdale, Bladensburg and College Park volunteer fire department were conducting a search of the first floor when they were ordered out of the house due to increasing fire conditions

As the firefighters were exiting the house, a rare fireball barreled up the basement stairs, according to Brady.

“A sudden rush of air from the high winds caused by either a door or a basement window being opened or broken out caused the fire to intensify and send a fireball of flames up the steps to the first floor and out the front door and on top of the seven firefighters who were leaving the house,” Brady said.

Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said, “It only took eight seconds for this to happen from the time the evacuation tones were sounded to the time the fire reached the front door from the basement.”

Six firefighters were transported by medic units. The seventh firefighter, who suffered serious burns, was transported by Medevac to the burn center in Washington, D.C.

Six of the seven were hospitalized for a short period of time, but the seventh firefighter — Kevin O’Toole from Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department — was hospitalized for several weeks with burns to his arms, hand and legs. He is now home in Suffolk County, N.Y., and continues to undergo physical therapy.

After an extensive investigation, the fire was ruled arson. Fire investigators also determined that someone had attempted to set the house next store on fire. That incident is also still under investigation.  

“This cowardly crime is unconscionable to me. I have assured the nearly 3,000 men and women of the Prince George ’s County Fire/EMS Department — and I assure you — that we will leave no stone unturned to bring anyone responsible for this to justice,” Bashoor said.

Prince George ’s County State ’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said, “When we find the person or the individuals who did this, they will be charged with first-degree arson along with other charges.”

If anyone has information about either of these incidents, call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Tips may also be submitted securely and anonymously via text message by typing “PGPD” plus your message and sending it from to CRIMES (274637). If your tip leads to the capture of any of these fugitives, you may be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,000. The Prince George’s County Arson Tip Line will also accept information at 301-77-ARSON or email 77ARSON@co.pg.md.us.

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