WASHINGTON — It took Prince George’s County firefighters less than four minutes to realize a Sunday night call about a house fire in Boulevard Heights, Maryland, was not going to be a routine one.
The District Heights Fire and EMS station responded to reports of a house fire at around 10 p.m., and by the time they arrived at the blazing single-family house, dispatchers had informed them that people were trapped inside.
The fire started in a shed next to the house and spread inside through a window in the stairwell, trapping a couple on the second floor.
As soon as the firefighters had arrived on the scene, a police officer told them he could hear shouting upstairs, said Lt. Kris DeMattia, with the Prince George’s County Fire Department. The police officer had even tried to enter through the front door but was quickly overwhelmed by the intense heat and smoke.
“We went all in on the rescues because we knew there was a high probability there were people in there … We committed everything we had to making sure we got those people out of there,” DeMattia told WTOP.
“There was a lot of fire, power wires sparking in the roadway. I was actually having a hard time picturing what the house looked like,” DeMattia said of the blaze.
He said his team wasted no time taking action.
“Out of all the calls we run, fires where there’s actually somebody trapped inside — we don’t see that a lot. But it is something we continually train for. We always train for worst-case scenarios, so that way, when it does happen, we are all prepared for it — like we were.”
The team of firefighters entered the blazing house. The firefighter in charge of holding the hose used a technique to block the heat and gases so DeMattia and another colleague could make it up the stairs.
“Once we got to the top of the stairs, we could clearly hear two people yelling. Couldn’t really see maybe two feet in front of your face. We said, ‘Keep yelling, keep yelling,'” DeMattia said.
DeMattia found a man near the top of the stairs and was able to walk him out the front door, where he confirmed that one more person was trapped inside the house. Once he made his way back inside and up the stairs, he found his colleague carrying a woman toward the front door.
Both victims were immediately handed over to medics as DeMattia’s team shifted their priority to saving as much of the couple’s house as they could.
The couple was taken to a trauma center that specializes in burns and smoke-related injuries. Their injuries were serious but not life-threatening, according to a new release.
It took firefighters about 20 minutes to completely extinguish the fire, which had engulfed the second floor and the attic.
DeMattia credits the whole emergency response team for the rescue, including dispatchers and other firefighters that helped combat the blaze.
“Everybody worked as a team and was on the same page and was there to help each other, and at the end of the day, it benefited the citizens,” DeMattia said.
WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.
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