5-alarm College Park fire causes $39M in damage

A massive five-alarm fire caused an estimated $39 million in damage Monday at an apartment building under construction in College Park, Prince George’s County fire officials said.

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The fire has been the largest suppression effort and the highest fire loss estimate in the history of the Prince George’s County Fire Department, officials said.

The fire broke out around 9:35 a.m. Monday in the 4700 block of Berwyn House Road at the Fuse 47 building, which was under construction. Heavy smoke from the fire blanketed much of College Park. Fire officials said the rainy weather caused the thick smoke to lay close the ground.

Crews encountered thick smoke and flames on the fifth and sixth floors. Firefighters were hindered by not being able to fight the fire from the top floors, which have since collapsed.

“This is what we call a doughnut-type construction. There is a doughnut hole in the middle, backs up to a residential community, so it has been very difficult to get fire apparatus back in that area,” Prince George’s County Fire Chief Ben Barksdale said.

Barksdale said there’s a courtyard in the middle of the building, and the building itself is built into a hillside, which meant that there was no vehicle access to the back of the building, making it difficult to access burning areas there. A police helicopter provided fire officials a look at what was burning in the back of the building.

More than 200 firefighters and more than 50 pieces of equipment from Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Howard counties and Washington, D.C., responded to the fire.

Firefighters from surrounding jurisdictions back-filled Prince George’s County fire stations that responded to this fire.

“The mutual aid response form our neighboring jurisdictions was much needed,k appreciated and put to good use,” Barksdale said.

Firefighters made a stand much of the day behind what they call a three-hour firewall, trying to keep the inferno from spreading to the front of the building. The fire roared through empty spaces, devouring lots of wood, which, combined with the lack of access, made gaining control of the fire a day-long challenge.

At 3 p.m., Brady said the fire was placed under control, but there were still many hot spots that will require firefighters’ presence throughout the evening.

One firefighter suffered over-exertion and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. A member of the Office of Emergency Management suffered an ankle injury at the scene and was treated.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

U.S. Route 1 remained closed into the evening at Berwyn House Road.

The building was slated to have about 250 apartments, retail stores and a parking garage, and was scheduled to open in July.

Due to poor air quality from the fire, the University of Maryland-College Park announced it would close at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Many students couldn’t resist taking pictures.

“It’s pretty…

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