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Thursday, April 24, 2014 6:08 AM

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Hoarding hinders firefighters' attack on fatal fire


Cheverly woman dies in blaze

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Photo by Jim Davis. Heavy fire damaged the top floor of this Cheverly house. Fire Department officials said hoarding prevented firefighters from aggressively attacking the fire. A 59-year-old woman died in the fire.

Photo by Jim Davis. Heavy fire damaged the top floor of this Cheverly house. Fire Department officials said hoarding prevented firefighters from aggressively attacking the fire. A 59-year-old woman died in the fire.

Published on: Monday, April 01, 2013

By Jim Davis

A 59-year-old woman died Sunday after a fire erupted in her Cheverly home.

Large accumulations of hoarded materials made it unsafe for firefighters, officials said.

“The accumulated materials made it difficult for firefighters to get into the house and might have helped fuel the fire,” Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said.

Just before 8 a.m., firefighters responded to the 2400 block of 59th Place for the reported fire with a resident still inside the burning home. Firefighters encountered heavy fire conditions on the top floor of the two-story house, Mark Brady, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department spokesman.

As fire crews attempted to enter the house, they encountered a hoarding situation that prevented them from making an aggressive attack on the fire. The PGFD collapse team was called to the scene to shore up the floor to prevent a collapse. 

Two volunteer firefighters from Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department reached the second floor where they located the resident unconscious and not breathing. The two firefighters carried the woman outside were she was pronounced deceased by paramedics.

Neighbors identified the victim as Stephanie Syslo. Residents of 59th Place described Syslo as a friendly neighbor who lived alone with her cats and enjoyed gardening. She was a long-time employee for the Environmental Protection Agency and often walked to the Cheverly Metro Station, neighbors said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Brady said. Fire investigators determined that the house did not have a working smoke alarm, Bashoor said.

In February, a father and three of his four daughters died after a fire erupted in their Glenarden house that also did not have a working smoke alarm.

“This was the eighth residential fire fatality in the county this year,” Brady said. “We have had a total of 11 people die from fires.”

One firefighter was injured Sunday. He was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries, Brady said. 

In September 2010, the Tuxedo Cheverly Fire Department, which is located less than a half of a mile from the house on 59th Place, was closed down by former Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones. The Tuxedo Cheverly Fire Department staff and equipment was moved to a new fire station in Springdale — about 5 miles from this house fire.

The land for the new fire station was donated to Prince George’s County, and county officials decided there was a need for a new fire station because of the growing population in the Springdale area.

However, instead of adding firefighters and equipment of the new station, Jones chose to move personnel and equipment from Tuxedo Cheverly.

Reader Comments - 5 Total

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Posted By: Judi May On: 5/24/2013

Title: Good bye my friend. :0(

It saddens me that Steph lost her life in this manner. I knew Steph very well. The article did not call her a cat lady, they merely stated that she was the only human living in that house and she had cats. Steph always was a bit of a hoarder but that doesn't mean her house was dirty. It simply means that they were unable to get a clear path to her. If she had working fire/smoke detectors than maybe she could have been saved. The lesson here is keep your pathways clear and make make sure you have working smoke detectors. Steph did have a good heart and I will miss her.

Posted By: Barbara J. Goetz On: 4/4/2013

Title: My friend

Steph was my friend for 25 years. She was a kind, caring, giving person not a hoarder. This article should have written as a tragic lesson on checking your smoke detectors, not about alledged hoarding.

Posted By: Marilyn Mann On: 4/3/2013

Title: A Good Friend and Dedicated Environmentalist

I was a friend of Steph's for many years, and I want it known that she was not a "cat lady" and hoarder! Steph was a dedicated environmentalist and hated the waste of supplies that she felt took place at her office. She just considered herself to be a waystation for office supplies for which she was forever finding new homes--often with charitable groups.
She was highly educated, intelligent, and much loved by the people who knew her, and she will be sorely missed.

Posted By: Dan Peacock On: 4/2/2013

Title: A Friend and Co-Worker

I worked with Stephanie at EPA for many years. She was a dedicated environmental chemist. She introduced me to the Anne's House of Nuts discount outlet. She will be greatly missed.

Posted By: Cara On: 4/2/2013

Title: Hoarding over Smoke Detector?

As a coworker of Steph Syslo, I can say that she was widely loved - an exceptional woman who was very generous and hard-working. It saddens me that this article was written to focus on "hoarding", and not on the one actual lesson to be learned - make sure all of your smoke detectors have working batteries. In addition, this article barely talk about the life that was lost. This tragedy was a very avoidable one, and the world has lost a wonderful woman.




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