RIVERDALE, Md. (WJZ)– People reach out for help as winds whip up a fire leaving firefighters hurt. Those firefighters are recovering, and we’re getting access inside frantic 911 calls as the blaze broke out.
Weijia Jiang has the latest.
Those recordings were released Saturday night. In them, we can hear fear in the neighbor’s voices as they braced for the winds to spread the flames.
911 Caller: “It’s about to start spreading like hell.”
Frantic 911 callers got it right when they warned dispatchers the wind was fueling a Prince George’s County fire.
911 Caller: “It’s about to start billowing.”
911 Caller: “The flames, the residue is flying everywhere ’cause it’s windy outside.”
911 Caller: “You might want to hurry up– there’s houses next door. This wind is blowing hard.”
When firefighters burst inside the Riverdale Heights house, the gusts turned the flames into a fireball.
“It created a blow torch effect,” Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoore explained. “Fire was down in the basement, the blow torch comes right up the steps, creates a chimney right out the front door.”
Seven volunteer firefighters were engulfed, then rushed to the hospital.
By Saturday, five had been treated and released, but two men remain in critical condition at the Washington Medical Center– 21-year-old Ethan Sorrell and 22-year-old Kevin O’Toole.
Sorrell and O’Toole were inside the first truck that arrived to the scene from the Bladensburg Fire Department where the mood is somber. Fire personnel visited the hospital throughout the day.
“Everybody knows what it’s like and it’s very difficult but they’re also holding their own,” a Prince George’s County firefighter said.
Sorrell has respiratory burns to his airway. O’Toole has burns over nearly half of his body.
Back at the scene, in the 6300-block of 57th Avenue, questions remain. The house is vacant but there was a car in the driveway when the fire broke out.
Investigators have not determined its origin or cause.
The fire chief tells WJZ both Sorrell and O’Toole are awake and responsive. He says the next 48 hours are critical to gauge how they’ll ultimately recover.
A special foundation for injured firefighters is paying for the victims’ loved ones to stay in the D.C. area as they recover.