By Carly Kempler and Angela Jacob
Senior staff writers
Three University of Maryland students escaped and two firefighters were injured in the blaze of a Route 1 home Friday morning.
The Prince George's County Fire Department responded to the home at the 6700 block of Baltimore Avenue, minutes after the fire broke out at 1:49 a.m., said Alan Doubleday, assistant fire chief.
About 40 firefighters were on the scene within minutes, and it took about an hour for them to put out the the fire, Doubleday said.
The two injured firefighters were transported to the hospital and released with non-life threatening injuries. The students were able to safely evacuate the home.
The origin and cause of the fire are still under investigation at this time, Doubleday said. When the firefighters arrived, the flames had caused significant damage in the home's basement, but also extended to the first and second floors.
"There was a partial collapse of the roof structure, which came down on firefighters," Doubleday said. "We had two firefighters who were immediately removed."
The house was equipped with smoke alarms, Doubleday said, which were activated during the time of the fire. However, there were no sprinklers in the home, said senior Katie Barr, a resident of the home who was sleeping when the fire started.
"I just didn't think it would be anything," Barr said. "I figured there was a fire that was, like, six inches in diameter in our basement, and we would pour water on it and go back to sleep."
The fire caused an estimated $175,000 worth of damage to the home, Doubleday said.
"It will not be livable at this point," he said. "It will have to have some serious construction done to make it habitable."
Barr, a dietetics major, said she's lived in the house for two years, and planned to live there during the summer and next semester, though she had not officially signed the lease.
"I'm honestly just shocked," Barr said. "We just finished finals, and the college roommate experience is always an adventure, but this is just like, oh my gosh. The things I have gone through with roommates is just bizarre, but this one takes the cake."
Another student and tenant, senior cell biology and molecular genetics and nutritional science double major Ciara Egan, lost her cap and gown in the fire with one day before graduation, according to NBC4. An NBC4 reporter, Erika Gonzalez, sent a tweet to university President Wallace Loh asking him for help.
Egan, who was driving home from work when the flames broke out, said she is slowly realizing everything she lost in the blaze, but she added she was very grateful for all the firefighters' hard work.
"Last night, being there and watching it . . . watching the firefighters clear the house – it was a surreal moment where you don't know how to grasp the reality you're in," Egan said.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said he's relieved nobody was seriously harmed in the incident, and he emphasized the importance of safety standards, especially in some of the city's older homes.
"My heart goes out to them," Wojahn said. "There are reasons that we have standards in place, building and fire codes … but it shows the need that houses are built and protected in a way so that people can escape from it safely."