WASHINGTON — Firefighters say there were no working smoke detectors in the Fort Washington house that caught fire Thursday, killing an 80-year-old woman and her 75-year-old husband. Firefighting efforts were hampered by clutter in the home, which experts say always poses a risk to residents and to firefighters.
The investigation into the cause of the fire continues, said Mark Brady, a public information officer with Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Services Department.
“We believe the fire started on the lower level of the home and we believe the cause to be accidental,” said Brady. “Having a working smoke alarm provides you a 50 percent better chance of surviving a fire.”
Under Maryland law, all homes are required to be equipped with 10-year life battery smoke alarms. Firefighters say there should be one on each level of the home, especially in the hallway outside bedrooms.
Firefighters say “excessive storage” or clutter in homes is a fire hazard, threatening the safety of residents and to firefighters.
“We have seen storage and clutter in some houses from wall to wall, from ceiling to floor with a very narrow path leading through the stacks of clutter,” Brady said. “The stored materials, mostly combustibles or paper products, provide a lot of fuel for the fire. And typically the fires we see in these structures are very intense with a lot of heavy fire conditions.”
Items should be stored at least 3 to 4 feet away from furnaces and hot water heaters, which can carry open flames. Brady also said any spring cleaning that reduces clutter in residences goes a long way to boosting safety.
“We strongly encourage everybody to remove the clutter from their homes, making hallways and doorways accessible and clear of any clutter,” Brady said.