DC region sees recent spike in deadly fires

The winters months are typically the busiest time of the year for firefighters, when more candles and other heating sources, including fire places, are in greater use.

But in the D.C. region, the typically busy months of December through February had generally been quieter, though in recent weeks that hasn’t been the case.

On Monday morning, a woman died after a fire broke out in her Darnestown, Maryland, home.

Since then, several apartment fires around the region have also displaced dozens of people, including 30 people who lived inside an apartment building along G Street in Southeast D.C.

D.C. firefighters were back at it again Thursday morning, when a massive fire tore through a house along Alabama Avenue Southeast.

“We have had several significant fires here in the District over the last several days,” said D.C. Fire spokesman Vito Maggiolo. “Fortunately, there have been no deaths.”

Maggiolo said a big concern right now is the number of elderly residents whose homes catch fire. That was the case in this most recent fire, when a couple and a young child were able to get out before the outcome turned tragic, and it’s clear where firefighters put the credit.

“I spoke to the gentleman and he said, ‘Thank the Lord my smoke detector went off. That’s what alerted me,'” said Maggiolo. “Everybody was out safely by the time we arrived. The whole rear of the house on the first floor was already an inferno. I suspect we would have had a much worse outcome if it was not for the early warning that the smoke detector provided them, and provides everybody.”

Unfortunately, the woman who died in Darnestown did not have working smoke alarms in her home. Fire investigators still haven’t figured out what started the fire there, or the ones that displaced so many people in the District.

In Hagerstown, fire marshals are trying to unravel all the details after three people died in a fire Wednesday night. The fire department said it broke out around 7 p.m. Firefighters were reportedly able to rescue two others who were inside the home.

Of the 14 people who have died in Maryland fires so far, four of them are from the city of Hagerstown. A fifth is from nearby D.C. suburbs. All have died within the last nine days.

“More often than not, the fact that folks either did not have a smoke alarm or had a smoke alarm that was inoperable — was not working, the batteries had been removed, the smoke alarm had been taken down and considered to be a nuisance — those types of events provide tragic outcomes,” Maggiolo said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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