Industrial park fire destroys fire trucks

CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. — Fire investigators continue to investigate the cause of a huge fire in Prince George’s County Monday afternoon that caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage, including the destruction of two fire engines.

The three-alarm fire at 5:15 p.m. ripped through an industrial storage yard in a Capitol Heights industrial park in the 8700 block of Ashwood Drive.

The storage yard, located to the sides and rear of warehouses for a roofing company and a bathroom/closet remodeling business, “was loaded with automobiles, wood pallets, roofing materials, propane tanks, sea containers loaded with combustibles, sheds and a myriad of other combustible items,” according to Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire Department.

First on the scene were fire engines from the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department and the West Lanham Volunteer Fire Department.

“As they began to attack that fire, winds shifted,” said Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Chief Marc Bashoor.

The gusty winds from the north shifted to the east and drove the flames right toward Kentland Rescue-Engine 833 and West Lanham Hills engine 848, destroying them.

“The driver of the one fire truck was able to move it back, but he struck a dumpster,” said West Lanham Hills Chief John Alter.

Brady says the fire was just too large and spreading too quickly for firefighters to do anything more than move out of harm’s way.

Two firefighters sustained minor burn injuries and were treated and released from a Burn Unit.

It took about 90 minutes for more than 100 firefighters on 30 pieces of fire equipment to control the fire. Firefighters spent the overnight hours putting out hot spots, as investigators stayed on the scene trying to identify the point of origin of the fire and the likely cause.

Thick black smoke, produced from the burning tar, tires, shingles and other petroleum-based products, could be seen from as far away as Virginia and from Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals played the New York Mets on Opening Day.

The losses from the fire at the industrial park, plus the current value of the fire trucks, are estimated to be $1.5 million.

But, replacing the two fire engines, now valued at $400,000, will cost about $1.5 million. The all-volunteer Kentland and West Lanham Hills Fire Departments will still be able to respond to calls with other apparatus, Brady says.

The West Lanham Hills Volunteer Fire Department has started a GoFundMe page to raise funds to replace its destroyed fire engine. It’s trying to raise $450,000 to replace the 1988 truck.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to WTOP.com in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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