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Helmet-cam video: Multi-alarm apartment fire with rescues in Montgomery County, MD.

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Detailed description of the fire & pictures at the 1st Battalion Facebook page

We started to post this helmet-cam video by Erik Couse yesterday, but it had gone private. It is now back up and it shows Tuesday’s multi-alarm apartment building fire in Montgomery County, Maryland that left 10 people, three of them firefighters, with non-life threatening injuries. Here’s the description with the video:

Third due engine as the Rapid Intervention Company. 7 rescues by Battalion 1 units made via ground ladders upon our arrival.


The fire, which was caused by a malfunctioning electrical socket, sent 10 residents to the hospital with minor injuries. It started just before 3:45 Tuesday and took firefighters more than 2 1/2 hours to get under control.

More than 100 residents of the Forest Park Apartments building at Piney Branch Road near New Hampshire Avenue were displaced by the fire. Many residents had to be rescued from third and fourth floor apartments.

At the Long Branch Community Recreation Center, 12 people displaced by the blaze spent the night and met with county officials about their options. Financial and housing specialists were on hand to determine if any of the residents qualified for food stamps or medical assistance.

Several of the people displaced lost more than possessions; a handful of displaced residents at the recreation center lacked medical necessities including medicine and inhalers.

The fire did about $1.5 million in damage to the building and its contents.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Anonymous

    What appeared to be a “good” room and content fire or apartment fire was compounded by some dumb a#$ “officer” that decided to flow water on a building that has FIREFIGHTERS inside, real intelligent!!!!!! You assisted with the aut extension to the upper floors, maybe you should go back to tactics class. Sounded like ALOT of talking on the radio by interior units and no water, can anyone shead some light on this???? I’m interested to hear the real story…..

    • Anonymous

      Do yourself a favor and watch this video.

      • play4keeps

        Governor’s Island NIST Tests were done on ordinary construction with applicability to wind driven fires in fire resistive dwellings. Whether this tactic should have been applicable to this job is debatable…do yourself a favor and better understand the tactic of “transitional mode” in ordinary construction such as garden apartments.

    • Anonymous2

      How did cooling the thermal column result in assisting with fire extension to the upper floors?

      • Just another firefighter

        When they hit the windows above, unintentionally, the cold water on the hot glass shattered the windows thereby giving the fire access to the apartments above. Exterior had the right idea on the fire room. Head strong command wouldn’t listen to boots on the ground. Follow what seems to be the NY model. Hit the fire from the exterior. Allow the fire door and fire wall to contain the fire to the affected apartment while extinguishing from the exterior. Once fire is knocked down, go in and clean up. Obviously, letting this burn for… and extending to additional units is not a good model to emulate.

  • Volunteer for life

    Well they had time to set up a ton of ladders but yet no water on a one or two room job. I am also curious too understand what went down. One line 600 gallons looked like it would really killed it. That would be easier then taking dozens of people down ladders . Must me paid .

  • FED UP

    water in the window would have stopped auto extension and slowed the fire or put it out. watch the mist flow path studies, fire pushing does not happen, we’ve known this for years and now there is valid science to back it up. doing nothing was not working.

  • Anonymous

    The previous comment was out of line and unProfessional. Since your words did point out you would like to know the Truth, you would be well advised to find out the facts before you speak juvenile ignorant mentality. I listened very close. Oh by the way I am a Retired MCFRS Lieutenant. I know the entire Incident was Managed with Dept. SOPs. The initial report Heavy Smoke showing with Flames visible was made. The talking you heard was to ensure ACCOUNTABILITY without people doing their own thing. Every position that was determined was to ensure SAFETY not only for Firefighters but for Civilian occupants.
    Climb out of your sand box, recess is over.

    Welcome to the 21st century Fire and EMS Service.

    Have a Nice Day

    • DC22FD

      Just curious, what held up the engine company from advancing on the apartments? Was there a lack of man power that caused the engine companies duties to somehow shift from confinement and extinguishment to rescue? Were there water problems? Hoseline bust? I didn’t listen to the whole incident.

    • rocket

      I’ve lived in this county for 30 years and unfortunately MCFRS has brainwashed their citizens that this type of result is ok. Bad tactics and nobody with balls to put that damn thing out. But they did show up with shiny rigs and vests and made it look like it was an attempt, that’s all we can ask of them right? Fact is a simply room and contents fire DID burn the building down (the roof ended up caving in after burning for 2 more hours) and every occupant lost everything. Call yourself a public service dept because you are not a fire dept. Typical Montgomery County, pathetic.

    • Anonymous

      Retired MCFRS Lieut, DFRS has some of the worst operational tactics and personnel and some of the finest, like all organizations. At times, DFRS has had the mentality of “you can’t get hurt, if you go in,” and subsequently burned building down all the way to some great good old aggressive firefighting. Unfortunately, under the guise of “accountability” much property has been lost because DFRS has become basically a “one-line” Fire Dept.

      This is not necessarily because of the firemen themselves but because of the so called, “21st century Fire and EMS” as you so call it which has been indoctrinated within many parts of the US, DFRS included. Contrast this to PG or DC which still uphold the traditions and are willing to accept a higher reward at greater risk. DC has a much higher potential for multiple exposure with its rows and older ordinary apartment building vs Montgomery with its lightweight townhouse, which of course, mandate a different tactic.

    • Anonymous

      As for DFRS, it is unable to contain more than a room and contents fire unless you have the right people working which is more difficult year after year as the experienced staff retires and the volunteer leadership becomes irrelevant.

      This is the 21 century DFRS, a one-line FD which provides excellent EMS.

  • Anonymous

    You do have to wonder if the water hitting hot glass may have enhanced the fire spread to the upper floors? (Through auto exposure).

  • Bakbeans

    Was anyone as frustrated as I was by this video? We have slowly but surely as a department changing our tactics on this type of fire. In my 20 years of experience I had a feeling that sometimes I did not put water on the fire when I could and should, with the mistaken thought that it change the thermal balance or steam burn the victims or some other nonsense. I completely changed my tactics after watching the FDNY, NIST, UL technical panel discussion from FDIC this year. Here is the changes I made in a nutshell. Water on the fire LOWERS the temperature in the ENTIRE structure! What a revolution right! Secondly, to quote a good friend and truck officer I respect immensely, wet rooms don’t burn! I don’t want to knock anyone in the video they were doing an awesome job with the safety of the interior crews first in their thoughts. The RIC officer was right on the money, put water on the fire things get better even if it is from the OUTSIDE! If you all have time for some training please spend 2 hours with your crews and watch this video it will change what you do, or at least back up what you do now with facts! Lastly, amazing job on the rescues you guy saved lives without a doubt!

  • LRBHater

    Typical MCFR. OUTSTANDING Fireman.

  • Anonymous

    Little bit of water would have solved that problem very quickly. Let a room and contents fire burn for 10 minutes without a line on and it is going to be a long afternoon…

  • the joker

    just so we are clear, did everyone get their command vests?

  • Mike

    You will always disrupt he thermal balance to some degree…regardless of the method. I proved that in 1985. Fire Engineering (at the time) told me that my research and data was too progressive :-). The key is to use the available resources in an intelligent manner to avoid injuries. As to why they had to resort to master streams on such a well vented fire, I don’t know, as I was not there . If I had to guess after spending almost 30 years in both PG and Montgomery Counties, I would say too many F/F’s jammed into the stairs and corridors ….. At least they made an announcement ordering everyone to back out first .

  • David S.

    Anonymous I would like to know why no water for the interior crews. And by the way do you know Duyane Allen or Louis Schaub real good friends of mine .

  • FF Ross

    Looks like they rescued the occupants right away, lots of them from upper floors on ladders. The fire did go out, and the building is standing. Everyone went home. Good work.

    Some very unprofessional comments on this site.

    • Anonymous

      Concrete slab and block building. Residents could have stayed in their units while the fire was knocked in less than 5 minutes. Highest risk action to take is getting a 80 year old woman down a ladder when you could instead just put out the fire and walk her down the stairs 10 minutes later.

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  • MocoJoke

    anybody want to watch a building burn down? classic video of what not to do with people “trapped”. From the brief video of sides bravo and delta (where the rescues are being effect), there was no imminent danger to those civilians on those balconies. Instead, those resources should have been focused on putting the white stuff on the red stuff. Fire one information here, folks. As McCormack says….”if we put out the fire, safety is accomplished for everyone on the fire ground” No reason the be pulling people off perfectly safe balconies instead of getting inside and putting in the work that needs to be done.

  • Anonymous

    In reading the comments here, it would seem there are a lot of experienced Command people. I have serious doubts about that.
    (1) A room and contents doesnot displace 100 people.
    (2) Initial reports of multiple people trapped, was sent out
    on responding units MDC
    (3) Initial on scene report Heavy smoke and Fire showing. The
    command SOP immediately went into Attack mode.
    (4) The first arriving BFC established Command.
    (5) Each responding unit was designated in a team/group
    (6) Each Division group was assigned a specific Task to
    complete. Thus “ACCOUNTABILITY”
    (7) As the Rescues were accomplished in conjunction with
    Fire spread being controlled. Yes the Fire itself did
    present challenges to control without any Loss of Life.
    (8) Some comments made “Volunteer for Life/must be paid” you
    probably have no clue about how,why,when,who Fire Ground
    decisions are made. You sound like one of those,”Big Fire
    Big Water type mentality.
    (9) “Mike Says/Babbaker says” both of you I shall give you
    the Benefit of being a seasoned Firefighter, with at least
    a Basic Body of Knowledge in Basic Firefighting in today’s
    Fire/EMS Service Delivery System.
    (10) David S says, yes I know the two individuals you mentioned
    Schaub is a Good and decent man. You might ask Duane Allen
    how his Fire Service Career went.

    As a Professional I would caution each comment made here
    you should ask yourself, Do you have the Facts and do you
    have the ability to act and conduct yourself as a
    Professional not if, but when you and/or your Department
    might encounter a situation perhaps not exactly but you
    your decisions are and could be made without Loss of Life.

  • Anonymous

    if a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way wonder what about how 120 gallons of minute of water in through a window will make a fire feel…NO IT MAKES NO SENSE BUT IT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME!

  • Ladderman

    Regardless of what the UL study does or doesn’t say, obviously there was an initial commitment to an interior firefighting operation on this incident that was not successful for some reason.

    It seems that debate about the UL report often pops up when someone is attempting to make excuse for or deflect attention away from the failure to execute basic fireground operations.

    The UL report says a lot things, most of which we already knew. Many that quote select portions of the report have only read the summary or have never read it all. Taking the time to read the whole report would be time well spent.

  • Volunteer for life

    Someone plz clarify why the interior team failed to knock down this fire. Busy northeast vollies would made that a 60 min job with overhaul.

  • BCFDHoseHumper

    Arrive on scene with an apartment heavily involved. Clear the scene with 100 people displaced and several apartments burnt out and a giant hole burned in the roof….. How’s that “progressive fire tactics and hit it from the outside cuz its safe and we cant push fire” working out for you?

  • Anonymous

    Biggest failure of this fire….
    Crews totally abandoned SOP’s (first due engine – fire attack, second due engine – backup line) – if these crews pulled a line and a backup line, this helmet cam video would have been a short display of fire to smoke to steam to out.

    Ignoring assignments/SOP and instead having all personnel free lancing with balcony rescues actually put all of the crews operating inside (PG TK834 and PG RS801) and the citizens at a higher risk.

    One of the “rescues” was more than 30 minutes into the incident because initial searches couldn’t be completed since the fire was burning uncontrolled. The man from an upper floor was “rescued” when he walked out the the balcony, apparently he was sitting in his upper floor apartment the whole time. Wood frame structure would have certainly been a civilian death.

    A concrete structure is the only reason that this building isn’t a hole in the ground. Total failure of command to keep units following SOPs and poor execution.

    • Anonymous

      What does this mean: Ignoring assignments/SOP and instead having all personnel free lancing with balcony rescues actually put all of the crews operating inside (PG TK834 and PG RS801) and the citizens at a higher risk.

  • smithd

    Interior attack was attempted. First and Second engine crews were not able to make access to the fire apartment due something collapsing and blocking the fire apt. door from opening all of the way. Unfortunately staffing is an issue with the trucks, 3 personnel, and all trucks were tied up with removals from the balconies. By the time the engine crews did get the door open enough to advance forward, they were immediately pushed to the floor with intense heat. They attempted to flow and cool but it apparently just laughed at them. They had to control the door and retreat to the common hallway and let the crews knock it from the outside. If you don’t believe that is workable tactic, you are one of the ignorant firemen that needs to drop the ego and look at the science.

    The initial crews were screwed from the get go. If any of you know the complex you would understand; almost 2000′ lay, hilly/shitty ground for c access, only able to use the first engine and truck due to access, the heat was 94 degrees, and staffing is not adequate for the special services. I am not sure if it was the combination of heat and terrain but every crew that cycled through was good for about 5 to 10 min of interior work. With the amount of truck work that needed to be done on all floor, it was tough making progress due to crews heading out shortly after coming in. You can’t blame it on MoCo for that one because all four jurisdictions that were there did this.

    Were there issues that can be improved on…yes. Were mistakes made….yes. Was there cowardism…no. Did everyone truly try to put this out from the interior…yes. This was not a perfect fireground but show me one that is. Moco is not the dept. of standing outside and making pools anymore. There are depts that have there bad days and this one was a tough one for them. Look at DC, you all have had some pretty high dollar loss fires with some awful performances as well. You my friends are not a good as you all one were. You may have some tradition and some good houses here and there, just like any other dept, but we have all seen videos of your recent firegrounds and some of them leave a lot to be desired….you can’t blame that on the chief unfortunately. PG, has the same. PG is definitely not what it was and all the same I said for DC applies to them as well.

    For all the great ones, I would love to see a “do over” with all the “tough firemen” with all the same equipment, staffing, and initial issue presented and see what the outcome would be.

    • Jim

      You lost me at “the fire laughed at them”.

    • fmch

      I can understand the “heat”. I work in Florida, and my department runs 2/engine there are no Trucks. Getting a working fire in the summer sucks.

  • Anonymous

    OK Already. Enough said of FACTLESS OPINIONS. Constructive Criticism is good to Listen and Learn from. The comments here are nothing more than Individuals seeking to make a name for themselves. The Overall Incident was a success. No Loss of LIFE. I am quite sure the Fire Chief and the Division Chief for Operations will conduct a thorough After Action Report. The
    After Action Report will ensure how,why,when,who,whynot SOPs were carried out as designed for expectations, and/or were there any real failures or were any Decisions and/or Tactics
    Detrimental to Saving of Life and/or Firefighting. The individuals who commented here, spoke their opinions with Negative,biased, and just plain wrong personal attacks against
    MCFRS. I detest these Baseless and Factless words by those who think and believe they know it all.

  • there

    I was there, I will only say this:

    1) fire was on 2 floors in the pipe chase and moving to the cockloft when crews arrived.
    2) 911 call was delayed because the resident tried to put the fire out
    3) the 2nd floor fell in to the 1st floor as co. were moving in on the fire, this blocked the fire from the crews.
    4) arriving companies had to walk to the scene from the street in gear, so most crew were stressed from the heat from the walk to the scene.

    Most of you on here are clowns and I know for a fact you were not on this call or you would have known the situation. It is so great you can get all the facts from one video.

    I will not answer any other ignorant comments. I am sorry to say Dave Statter, but this is turning into the new Watch Desk.

    • dave statter

      My goal is not to be The Watch Desk but the type of comments you are getting now are really nothing new. It really is either having the comments or not. Anonymous comments in an open forum are most often just like this, a free for all. Not my cup of tea either. Though I do like the interesting conversations that do come through.

      I have often thought of having a closed forum and making people sign up and identify themselves (both to me and in the forum). Basically I would vet those who are joining to make sure they are who they say they are. My guess is most of the trash tack and my hose is bigger than yours would stop.


  • Volunteer for life

    Next time send in kentland. End of story. This job is a joke. The first due co’s ever get any work???

  • Anonymous

    What does this mean:
    Ignoring assignments/SOP and instead having all personnel free lancing with balcony rescues actually put all of the crews operating inside (PG TK834 and PG RS801) and the citizens at a higher risk.

    • Anonymous

      Special services operating above a fire while doing searches are expecting engine crews to be knocking the fire.

      Engine crews who decide to abandon fire suppression and focus on balcony rescues are endangering everyone by not completing their assignment that is dictated in the SOPs.

      If entry couldn’t be gained to the fire apartment, tell the exterior crew to knock it from outside. Not risk of hitting someone with a hose stream if they aren’t even in the fire apartment.

  • Ron Few

    MCFRS is still better than working for DC!

    • DCFD

      Yea but can you actually call yourself a fireman and sleep well at night?

      • Jim

        I’d rather be on the Varsity team with a shitty coach than the JV team any day. Stay with MCFRS, you will be happier and fires like this (and the many before that) will be acceptable to you. Varsity is not for everyone, you did the best you could.

  • roofhook22

    FF Ross, not everyone went home, appears many were burned out, and I am not blaming the fella’s. I hate that phrase, it is a false promise. As a company officer I train my crews extensively and strive for aggressive but safe operations, but if I want to guarantee that my crew will always go home, not hurt, I should stay in the station. The public deserve to go home also. As for the tactics, I was not their and hope they did their best.

    P.S. Water from anywhere will make things better. Wet rooms don’t burn.

  • 95%er

    Forget this fire for a minute.

    What some of the folks have written is incredible.

    FDNY, NIST and UL spent a bunch of money and time and basically debunked the basic fire attack/ventilation principles that most of us have been taught for years. They did it through science and engineering. Not anecdotal stories.

    The word is slowly spreading through the country.

    Instead of embracing the science that can revolutionize our business, many take great pride in telling us how those stupid facts don’t apply to this fire or that building.

    The American Fire Service…200 years of pride unhindered by modern science.

  • Ron Few

    More folks leaving DC right now than any other local jurisdiction. Your so called Varsity team is led by the biggest idiot in today’s modern fire service- I don’t blame you all I’d quit too. By the way alot of your Varsity team members are Chiefs or firefighters in the MCFRS system!

  • Anonymous

    Any department across the nation can have a bad day, not every engine company has their most experienced nozzlemen or officer on “that day”. Not every truck company has their most experienced FE guy working “that day” either. These things happen, we hope the “big one” happens on the day our “a-teams” are working but it doesn’t always happen that way.

    As far as PG and DCFD “doing it better” than MOCO, that’s funny. DCFD you guys are the “what not to do” poster children of the nation. PG, yeah most of your “a-team” works for MOCO. So just remember folks whenever you point fingers there is always three pointing back.

    To the fans of PG and DCFD, they aren’t what you truly think they are. They have problems like anyone else, actually more than anyone else.