WASHINGTON — Fire investigators in Prince George’s County, Maryland are looking for the cause of huge fire that gutted one garden-style apartment building at the Carriage Hill apartment complex and forced families from a second.
“I saw people on the second and third floor being tossed off the balcony. Little babies being tossed off the balcony. I guess people will do anything to save their lives. It was really scary for me,” said Andrea Poston who lives in the Hillcrest Heights-area complex in the 3300 block of Curtis Drive.
“They were all helping each other to get out the building, yes. I think someone even came out with a blanket, you know you try to catch somebody on them? So I saw someone had a blanket and I heard the kids like, ‘Catch me. Catch me. Catch me.’ And that was just the saddest thing to me. I couldn’t even watch.”
Describing the fire as “terrible,” Poston said everyone had to evacuate.
“It grew really big,” said Poston. “It’s really sad, the fire spread so fast. Within minutes.”
Firefighters rescued two people.
Resident Matthew Chester said panic was going through his mind when his wife and children called to say the fire was spreading.
“It’s definitely panic, definitely panic,” said Chester.
“Your mind is racing 100 miles a minute and you’re just thinking alright, let me get there to make sure everything is OK and everybody is safe.”
“Some families are going to have some rough times for Christmas,” Chester said.
Chester is thankful for the response from the firefighters who got on the scene just after 7 a.m. and had the two-alarm blaze under control within an hour.
“They put in a tremendous amount of effort,” said Chester about the firefighters. “I’m glad they continue to do what they do.”
The fire shot through the roof and to a second building.
“It was pretty big, pretty big. Flames were almost coming over the top of this building right there.” said Clyde Smith, who lives in another area of the complex.
Assistant Fire Chief Alan Doubleday said the losses are to property.
When firefighters arrived, Doubleday said there was fire on two floors and through the roof.
“It did get up in the roof structure and they made a stop on that to keep it from going to a third building.
“With the water damage that we’re going to have and taking out windows, that’s why we’re going to need to displace residents in that [second] building as well.”
Five people were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation and three of them were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, according to fire officials. A firefighter who was injured returned to duty.
“On a positive note, we had no serious injuries,” said Doubleday.
“This time of year seems like we run our biggest fires and our most devastating fires. Maybe it’s just because of the holidays people recognize it more. But it is tough to see,” Doubleday said.