From Kentland VFD: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 At 1715, hours, units from the Greater Landover area were dispatched for a building fire at 8740 Ashwood Drive. Rescue Engine 33 (operating as a Rescue Squad) responded to the scene with 5 personnel, a large column of smoke could be seen as soon as the crew left the station. The fire involved a large pile of building materials and several vehicles adjoining a large commercial building, prompting first due Engine Co 38 to request the second alarm upon arrival.
Rescue Squad 33 arrived as the second special service and worked to position themselves on the C-Charlie side per the SOPs. Noting the large volume of fire as the unit approached the rear of the buildings, the decision was made by the officer to position behind the Delta-1 exposure, upwind of the fire building and approximately 300′ away from the edge of the fire area. The crew used saws to cut several chain-link gates and a fence to gain access to the area where the burning materials were being stored.
Once in the rear, the OIC of Rescue Squad 33 gave returns (radio reports) on the conditions of the fire building and the multiple exposure buildings. Although there was some heat from the fire, the conditions in the storage yard were tenable. As other units began to arrive and worked to establish a water supply in the rear, the crew of the Rescue Squad was able to examine and report the conditions of the fire building and exposures. At approximately 8 minutes into the incident, the winds shifted towards the Charlie Side and conditions immediately deteriorated to near-zero visibility and high heat.
As fire reached the pallets in the rear, the panels of foam-type insulation turned to a flaming, molten liquid and began to follow the path of the terrain, igniting everything it touched. Within seconds, what had been a tenable operating position in an open air environment became a rapidly advancing wall of fire, as pallet stack after pallet stack lit off.
Recognizing the severity of the situation, the Squad OIC immediately made the call for the crew to evacuate the area, but the speed of the flowing “lava” was so great that the crew of the Rescue Squad became cut off from their exit. As the members attempted to make their way toward the hole they had minutes ago cut in the fence, the liquid enveloped their feet and legs, hardening to their gear and scalding their skin.
The members used everything available to gain elevation from the liquid and remove themselves from the deteriorating wildfire-like scenario. Drawn by the contour of the land, the burning liquid reached the Rescue Squad, parked behind the exposure building, igniting the vehicle immediately upon contact; within a minute, the unit was fully involved in fire, despite the efforts of the crew to extinguish it.
Unimpeded in its progress, the wall of flame continued to advance while the crew managed to escape the area to the location of Engine Company 28, several yards behind the Rescue Squad, where they were able to get water on their super-heated gear and re-initiate fire attack. However, mere moments later, the steadily advancing flame front reached the front of Company 28’s Engine and it soon met the same fate as Rescue Squad 33. A short time later, a water supply for the rear was reestablished and the Rescue Squad crew worked with others to extinguish the flames. In total the fire went to three alarms before being brought under control.