Thursday, August 11, 2016

Updated: Long Branch apartment explosion and fire

A large explosion and fire occurred at the Flower Branch Apartments near Arliss Street & Piney Branch Road just before midnight last night.  Dozens of people lost their homes and belongings in this fire.  Information about helping those affected can be found here.

The blast caused significant structural damage to the building, and it started a large fire which went to two-alarms on initial dispatch.  This complex is in the "first due" response area of Station 16, and all four pieces of apparatus from the station responded to the call (Paramedic Engine 716, Truck 716, Ambulance 716, and Breathing Air Unit 716).  The fire engine and ladder truck from Station 16 were first arriving on the call.  The fire engine and ladder truck from Four Corners remained at the site assisting investigators until late in the evening.

Image from the Fort Detrick-Forest Glen Fire Department, who responded on the second alarm.

Tower 719 of Montgomery Hills flowing water into the area most affected by the explosion.  Mike Hugg Photography.

The blast and fire injured more than 30 people, and as of this writing, a few persons are still missing.  The cause of the explosion remains unknown as of Thursday evening.  

While this is an extraordinary event, MCFRS is prepared to handle this sorts of large scale catastrophes.  Within a few minutes of the blast, the county had dispatched 3 alarms worth of apparatus (at least four fire engines, two ladder trucks, and one rescue squad on each alarm), a couple special alarms, and an EMS task force (a dispatch which sent eight ambulances and additional EMS resources, such as the county's two ambiance buses).

Firefighters spraying water on the blaze.  Image from Fort Detrick-Forest Glen Fire Department.


Because the explosion resulted in the collapse of the building, the county sent it's technical rescue team and a variety of other specialized resources (such as police canines).  Numerous units from Prince George's County also responded to the scene because of its proximity to the border.  Because the county is part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, MCFRS has automatic mutual aid with Prince George's County.  This allows PGFD units to be dispatched simultaneously with MCFRS units, meaning there is no delay in getting assistance from our neighboring county.

The audio of the initial dispatches and on-scene communications can be heard below:

MCFRS and PGFD did an excellent job in handling this explosion and gas-fed fire, but the affected residents can still use our help.  Food, clothing, and anything useful to those who have lost their homes can be dropped off at the CASA Welcome Center, 734 University Blvd East.  More information about how to help can be found here on the Silver Spring Regional Center website.

The fire brought out several local elected officials and community leaders, such as Councilmember Hucker and Silver Spring community leader Jeffrey Thames.  Later in the day, County Executive Leggett and officials from the fire and police departments held a press conference.  Below is Jeffrey Thames' live video from when he arrived on scene around 1 AM.

Councilmember Tom Hucker (District 5) was on scene for several hours early this morning.  Below is his Facebook post recounting his experience, along with information detailing how to help the victims of the fire.

While this is certainly a tragedy for the community, the outpouring of support has been remarkable, making the healing process easier.  People can make a financial contribution to the victims through the county's secure site here.