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UPDATED (new video added): High winds slam MD, DC & VA. Prince George's County hit hard with numerous large fires damaging structures. Mutual aid from as far away as Baltimore City & Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Photo by The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Voisin of the fire in the Beltsville – Laurel area. Click the image for more photos.      

Listen live to PGFD

Listen live to Fairfax County

Listen Live to Prince William County

Since early this morning the area around your Nation’s Capital has been hit hard with winds, sparking numerous brush fires and threatening and burning some homes. Fires are still burning. We will add info to this entry over the next couple of hours. In the meantime you can listen live to some of the area departments.       

The winds toppled the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, DC.      

Prince George’s County ordered the call back of career personnel to handle the numerous large fires. Two of the largest fires are at opposite ends of the county. One is in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. It forced the shut down of part of the adjacent I-95. Another fire still burning out of control along Piscataway Road. It has required mutual aid from Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia. Maryland units are assisting PGFD from as far away as Baltimore City and Caroline and Queen Anne’s Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (about 65 miles)..      

The fires moved so fast that a brush unit from Baden VFD was burned and a pumper from Belstville had to be quickly moved.      

North of the Washington area, Baltimore County has been dealing with a number of multi-alarm building fires since last night, plus numerous brush fires today.      


I-95 was also closed for a while in the Dale City area of Prince William County due to a fire near the rest stop. See the picture above.      


The morning started in Prince George’s County with a hint as to what was to come with the fire above (video provided by Firefighter Close Calls) at 8400 Potomac Avenue in the College Park area. Here is info from PGFD’s Mark Brady:      

Firefighters were alerted around 6:00 am, Saturday, February 19, 2011, to a house fire in the 8400 block of Potomac Avenue.  Upon arrival firefighters were met with a challenging scene involving a 2-story wood frame home fully involved with fire, rapid wind driven extension to homes on either side, two sheds on fire in back yards and a natural gas fire on the exterior of one of the neighbors houses.       

With high winds and rapid extension with additional structures in imminent danger; the Incident Commander requested a Second Alarm, bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene.       

It required nearly an hour for the bulk of the fire to be extinguished and another 2 hours to completely extinguish the fire in the house of origin.  Firefighters kept the exterior natural gas fire in check and were able to extinguish that fire after Washington Gas Company workers shut off the natural gas main at about 8:30 am.      


Late morning, at the far south end of Prince George’s County, a brush fire was reported near the Chalk Point Power Plant. I believe this is the fire that damaged Baden’s BR 36, a 1964 Ford.       

Not too long after that, a fire that has required a lot of resources through the day was reported in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. This is the fire just west of I-95. It caused major traffic problems along the highway. The video above is some of the smoke from that fire that I shot while in the area this afternoon. Below are details from Brady released at 1:49 PM:      

The largest incident involves about 100 acres of 30 foot high piles of mulch. The brush fire has extended about 2 miles over to Interstate 95. This fire has been burning since 12 noon and is still considered out of control.      


In the video above a driver shows conditions on I-95 South near the Beltsville fire. The most interesting part is around 7:20 as Foam Unit 812 from College Park responds to a fire in the median strip of the highway.      

Brady also announced a cancellation because of the fire. The event was to be hold where the initial staging area was located:      

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has been forced to require the cancellation of the charity ice hockey event at the Ice House on Old Gunpowder Road.      

This event was a game between Washington Capitals Alumni and public safety officers.      


Also on the north end PGFD had a fire at Laurel Mall (short clip above). Brady reports during the 2:00 PM hour, “firefighters arrived at the Burlington Coat Factory, 14700 Baltimore Avenue, with a fire that appears to have started in a dumpster outside the building. The high winds blew the fire into the loading docks and inside the building.”      


The picture above, courtesy of Firefighter Close Calls, is from a fire on Decatur Street and shows what PGFD and other departments have been dealing with today.      

The other major fire tapping the region’s resources is along Piscataway Road between Clinton and Fort Washington. That battle began when a battalion chief rolled up on a couple of old structures burning on Gallahan Road. Here is Brady’s report at 4:46 PM:       

A brush fire that appears to have started at a farm on Gallahan Road spread quickly driven by high winds. The fire damaged as many as 20 structures that include homes (some abandoned), sheds and barns. This incident escalated quickly to a third alarm with about 30 pieces of fire apparatus on location with about 120 firefighters working to extinguish the fires.      

Damage to occupied homes are minor to moderate. No civilian or firefighter injuries have been reported.      

Command post is set up at Piscataway Road and Windbrook Drive.      

Below are news reports from around the region on the fires and high winds from WJLA-TV:       




Comments - Add Yours

  • bcounty

    Don’t forget the 6 working structure fires in baltimore county, three went multi alarm.including the 3 alarm nursing home, 2 alarm dwelling and 3rd alarm building fire. and the huge amount of multiple acre brush and woods fires.

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  • Bcfde42

    There sending units from over 100 miles away to staging.

    • Bcfde42

      Cecil County units en route to Laurel staging. Stations 3,4,9,12 with various units.

  • Shh…

    Charles, Montgomery, Calvert, St. Marys, Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Batlimore City were in PG on fires and transfers. I never heard any DC Fire units. Did I miss something or did DC go into PG? I never heard NDW either and they go (or have gone) into PG pretty often.

    • dave statter


      What you have heard is pretty much what I have heard.


    • Doug

      Baltimore City Engine 6 was filling in at Laurel while I was there. Sorting through pics of the fire right now.

  • Steven

    Queen Annes Just organized a task force to send over the bridge at the request of PG county

  • Art of Fire

    A hundred miles away, huh?

    Can’t wait for the pictures of Wilmington, DE and Philadelphia, PA fire department apparatus staged in PG.

  • Dave

    Dave… The foam/crash truck from Andrews at one fire.. couldn’t tell due to all the trucks moving all over the place..

    • Doug

      I saw the crash truck from Andrews in the pits, on Van Dusen.

  • informed

    Yes, units from DC have been in PG and MC all day.


    DC 17 Engine transferred to Bowie..

  • ukfbbuff

    You would think you it was California during a Santa Ana Wind Storm. But its raining out here Statewide.

    Watching the videos could not help but think of the wind driven structure fires in Prince William County and Houston, Tx., in which there were LODD’s.

    “Structure Triage” is the key here to keeping personnel safe and protecting exposures. “Defensive Mode” may be the safest to use in some instances. Staying Mobile and not hooking up to a hydrant may be the best tactic in some instances.

    Good time for reviewing the Wildland 10’s and 18’s and 4 Common Denominators and refering to the “Beaufort weather Chart” for wind speeds and descriptions.

    • DJ

      Yeah we don’t do that in PG. We just fight it like a structural fire and eventually it goes out.

  • Anonymous

    Carrol Manor wound up in Round Hill.

  • news hound

    I love the air packs on the brush fire! hahaah

  • Doing it.

    Carrol Manor Nursing home?

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  • Anonymous

    In reading the comments it seems clear evryone understands the benefit of Mutual Aid among Bodering Boundaries and Distance Response as was the case yesterday. The one comment Shh made about didnot hear any DCFD companies. The DCFD Transferred five Engine Companies to both Montgomery and PG Counties. As Hookman says DCFD E17 did go to Bowie. DC E24 went to Silver Spring. E28 went to Bethesda. Mr.Statter please check DCFD website and you’ll see the Mutual Aid DCFD supplied. As for the
    comment SCBA on Brush Fires, yes it was/is a normal thing when the Smoke was so thick and intense Firefighters needed to be able to Breathe. As was reported these Brush Fires escalated to Structure Fire involvement. It can be safely noted the Brush/Structure Fires were handled in a True Professional Timely Fashion by all. The Mutual Aid assistance from various State wide Fire Compnies was initially Staged to ensure an immediate response as the need/request was made. The Mutual Aid from outside Maryland including Federal assistance was an
    an absolute must to have Resources of various type Apparatus and Additional Personnel resources ready at the call. The ICS
    obviously was in place and worked quite well. let us not forget
    some of the Structure Fires created an evacuation of people as
    most destructive the loss of peoples Homes. It doesnot matter which Mutual Aid Resources Responded where they came from, any distance etc. The Primary issue was the need and request to ensure the help. It was on the NEWS last night that Firefighters as far away as Arkansas were coming into PG County to help. Any comments that reflect any Negative aspects of who, how, when, why, where, of these Destructive multiple
    Brush/Structures is Totally out of Line and uncalled for.
    “To Montgomery and Prince Georges County Fire/EMS, and all those Mutual Aid Response Personnel/Apparatus” JOB WELL DONE

    Thank You

    • dave statter

      I didn’t doubt that DC provided mutual aid, I just missed him hearing them (and I was listening quite a bit). I believe that the crew trying to rescue E 841 was on air at the time.


  • DJ

    The crew that bailed out Engine 841 (and Engine 849 at one point later one) had to be on air to break the connections and keep the fire at bay while the units were evacuated. Squad 801 had to make an emergency move, and Engine 810 was being moved at one point with both crosslays deployed. Many units took positions that were perceived to be well enough ahead of the fire to make a stand. The extreme wind conditions made for extremely rapid fire movement. And there were numerous instances of SCBA being appropriate. The smoke was extremely thick in a lot of places most of the time, not to mention the fact there were numerous structures/outbuildings/chemical storage areas that burned and added into the mix. But I can only speak for the Laurel incident.

    There was at least one task force worth of DC units at the Laurel incident. I saw Engine 4 and a number of reserve engines in staging, as well as a BFC.

    • dave statter

      Thanks. I was listening when the Engine 841 and the Engine 849 incidents occurred. Much appreicated.


  • urbanyoda

    Good Job by all no matter where you came from or weather you where paid or volunteer. Thank You!

  • Sof

    Got foam?

    • Anonymous

      Leave the foam for the yard breathing “firefighters” of Montgomery county

  • Anonymous

    To the previous comment “Leave the Foam to Yard Breathing Montgomery County Firefighters” You always seem to be critical
    and make out of line remarks against Montgomery County.Quite totally out of Honestly Your ignorant juvenile mentality sarcasism is totally out of line. Grow up speak and conduct
    yourself especially when speaking/writing as a Professional.
    Climb out of your Sand Box, Recess is over.

    Thank You

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