Showing posts with label fire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fire. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Arson in Upper Rock area of Rockville

Rockville City police are investigating a case of arson in the Upper Rock area off of Shady Grove Road. Some time between 11:30 AM on January 28, 2024 and 11:30 AM on January 29, a suspect removed a window barrier at a vacant building in the unit block of Choke Cherry Road. The suspect then set fire to a pile of trash inside the building. No estimate or description of the resulting damage was provided by police.

Several office buildings in the office park on that block were sold to Boston Properties in recent years. A Boston Properties representative told a Montgomery County government advisory board in 2022 that three of the buildings were vacant on the 31-acre site between Choke Cherry and Gaither Road. Police did not identify which specific building the arson took place at. If you have any information on this fire or the suspect, you are asked to call police at 240-314-8900.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Montgomery County allowed County agency-owned high-rise to operate without fire alarms for 2 months

The Montgomery County government and owner Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County allowed residents to occupy the 15-story Westwood Tower apartments for two months without an operating fire alarm system. County officials have now condemned the high-rise building at 5401 Westbard Avenue in Bethesda after an electrical fire brought the existing violations to light this past weekend, and further damaged the building's electrical systems. In lieu of a functioning fire alarm system, HOC had posted signs inside the tower instructing residents to "evacuate and call 911" in case of a fire. The signs did not advise how residents who might be asleep during a fire would be aware one had broken out, nor how their neighbors in the approximately 200 apartments would be notified on more than a dozen floors.

Sign posted inside Westwood Tower after the
building's fire alarm system went down on November 9, 2023;
it was never repaired, and the building was condemned after
a fire on January 6, 2024

After the fire alarm system broke down on November 9, 2023, the HOC stationed personnel in the building lobby to be on-duty in case of a fire. It was unclear how one person could physically cover 15 floors (not to mention without an elevator),and knock on hundreds of doors, in the few seconds that might be needed for all residents to safely evacuate. One resident reported that these employees were sometimes seen dozing off in the lobby. Residents report that the HOC never informed them of a timeline for restoration of the fire alarm system. "Fire officials have repeatedly been called to the building because of the lack of a fire alarm," one resident said, and that the building has been "cited repeatedly because of a lack of fire alarm."

Generator outside the building, which has
no power; residents have been relocated

The insanity of the idea of one person being able to function as a human fire alarm for a 15-story building became clear this past Saturday night, when a transformer blew inside the building. Several residents I spoke to reported that not only were there no fire alarms sounding, but the backup "human fire alarm" in the lobby did not contact any of them. They smelled and saw smoke, and self-evacuated, alerting other residents on their way out of the building. One resident who lives on a floor that did not initially have smoke only learned the building was on fire when a friend who lived on a smoke-filled floor called them to say there was a fire, and to get out. 

Residents report that they were left freezing in the building from 6:00 PM Saturday night, until the building was condemned and evacuated 24 hours later. Power in the building was limited, and there was no heat at all. Security functions to keep non-residents and potential criminals out of the building were inoperable.

To top it off, the HOC initially refused to provide alternative shelter to residents, advising them to instead make a claim on their own apartment insurance to cover the cost of hotel rooms. As the details began to reach the public a day later, Montgomery County agencies announced they were providing off-site shelter. The HOC said the residents were being moved to hotels in the area. Residents were told that they could be displaced from the building for as long as three weeks.

There is concern among residents, given the County's inaction regarding the fire alarm outage in the preceding weeks and the building's ownership being politically affliated with the elected officials who appoint and oversee them, that repairs will be allowed to drag on. Last night, two extremely loud generators roared outside the darkened apartment tower. There was no visible activity at the building. 

Residents of HOC properties have long pointed out issues regarding health and safety in their buildings. Those complaints were backed up by the findings of federal inspections, which found 75% of the units they inspected failed to meet federal standards. It now appears the agency was allowed to violate the County's fire code for two months, by operating a building without functioning smoke and fire alarms to alert occupants.

The HOC acquired the building several years ago with grand plans to construct more buildings and garages on the property. When those plans were stymied by protests that arose when the agency announced it intended to build a parking garage on top of the Moses African Cemetery at the rear of the property - where many of the graves were desecrated during the building's construction in the late 1960s, the HOC then attempted to sell it to a private developer. That sale was temporarily blocked by a Montgomery County court injunction, and the buyer backed out of the transaction. The dispute - that the HOC tried to sell the land with the cemetery without notifying the descendants of those interred there, in violation of Maryland law - will be ruled on by the Maryland Supreme Court later this year.

The County and the HOC are only fortunate that Saturday's fire was not more serious. This could have been a catastrophic disaster, had a fast-moving fire engulfed the building. Elected officials have yet to criticize the situation that existed at the property; in fact, the County Councilmember who represents the area has so far tweeted only praise for County agencies.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Fire at the Grand apartments in White Flint

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service personnel responded to a report of a fire at the Grand apartments at 5801 Nicholson Lane in the White Flint area last night just after 7:00 PM. The fire was located in a dumpster in the basement trash room of the 15-story high-rise. MCFRS Pete Piringer reported that the fire was extinguished without spreading any further. 

Smoke from the fire did rise to some of the floors above, and some residents required assistance from firefighters. But there were no injuries, Piringer said, and no residents have been displaced. However, a lingering odor of smoke shortly after midnight this morning led a resident to call 911. MCFRS personnel responded, but found no evidence of fire.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Fire at Montgomery County dump in Rockville

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service units responded to a fire at the Montgomery County Shady Grove Transfer Station at 16101 Frederick Road in Rockville at noon today. More than twelve units responded to the incident at the County's main refuse disposal site, MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said. Upon arrival, firefighters discovered the fire was in a large trash compactor on the lower level of the facility. 

Heavy equipment, including front-end loaders, had to be brought in to fully extinguish the fire. No injuries were reported.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Rockville apartment fire displaces family

Rockville Volunteer Fire Department
personnel were among the first to respond 

A kitchen fire broke out in a second-floor unit at the Woodmont Park apartments at 1001 Rockville Pike in Rockville last night, around 10:30 PM. More than fifteen units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to the blaze. One family was displaced by the fire, MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said. Piringer said an "After the Fire" team will be touring the complex today to check smoke alarms, and provide fire safety tips to residents.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Montgomery County slow to react to Bethesda church attacks

Montgomery County government initially kept quiet about the first two arson and vandalism attacks at Bethesda churches early Saturday, and County leaders have been slow to react to the third yesterday morning. County officials made no public announcement of several fires being set at North Bethesda United Methodist Church, and of the cemetery being vandalized at the Wildwood Baptist Church next door Saturday until late the next morning, about 10 hours after a third attack at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church. Arson and property damage at St. Jane's was significant enough that Sunday Masses had to be relocated to a gymnasium.

Coverage of the church attacks by local media has not yet delved into why the public was not informed Saturday of the first attacks. No report I've seen so far challenges County leaders as to why they did not make the initial two attacks public until more than 24 hours later. Had they been announced, perhaps other houses of worship and the public could have been on heightened alert; there's no evidence Montgomery County itself stepped up protection of nearby churches, as the arson Sunday morning would seem to confirm.

County elected officials' reaction to the weekend church attacks has been slow, underwhelming or non-existent. County Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D), who represents the area where all three houses of worship were vandalized, did not weigh in on the matter until very late Sunday evening on Twitter. Councilmembers Will Jawando (D -At-Large) and Gabe Albornoz (D - At-Large) tweeted at about the same time late Sunday. So far, no County elected official has outlined any actions they are taking in response.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) had still not issued a formal press release on the County website as of this writing, and had not commented on Twitter or Facebook. Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) has been silent on the attacks, despite a media event this past March at which he said, "It is a sad sign of the times that we have to be protecting places of worship, but it is a reality of the times.” His colleague, Ben Cardin (D), hasn't spoken out, either. Congressman Jamie Raskin (D), who represents Bethesda, hasn't issued a press release or social media statement as of this hour.

No press release yet from
Montgomery County police

Attacks of this nature are hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism. But as of this morning, there is no press release from Montgomery County police on these high-profile crimes.

No visible police patrols or presence were
seen at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
in downtown Bethesda on the "night of rage"
two weeks ago, nor last night following this
weekend's attacks at other Bethesda churches

The tepid response by Montgomery County to these events is not new this summer. In the evening and early morning following the controversial Supreme Court decision two weeks ago, there was no visible sign of stepped-up patrols at any Catholic churches I went by in the County. That was despite a warning of a "night of rage" by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to parishes nationwide, which said domestic terror incidents could be expected at Catholic churches. That night - and last night, following the disturbing events of the weekend - there was no visible sign of law enforcement outside of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in downtown Bethesda.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Red Line single-tracking after smoke reported in tunnel near Bethesda Metro station (Photos)

A smoke incident at the Bethesda Metro station has forced Red Line trains to single track between Friendship Heights and Medical Center this evening. Around 7:00 PM, smoke was reported in the tunnel near the station. Metro Transit police and Montgomery County fire units responded, but so far have found no fire. A police officer at the scene said the smoke is believed to have been caused by brake dust in the tunnel, but firefighters are going to thoroughly search to be sure. Among the units that responded was a truck from the Twinbrook Fire Station 23 in Rockville.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Rockville arsons in same neighborhood under investigation

Shed destroyed by fire on
Grandin Avenue in Rockville

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services investigators are examining what they say is a case of arson in East Rockville, the second reported in that immediate area since last Friday. City of Rockville police responded to a reported case of arson at a home early Friday morning, January 15, 2021. The arson was reported at a home in the 100 block of Coleman Park Lane around 4:21 AM, according to crime data.

Another view of Grandin Avenue
shed fire damage now being 
attributed to arson

Now, MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer has announced that fire investigators are seeking public tips regarding a second arson only blocks away. The second fire was allegedly set in a shed in the backyard of a home in the 300 block of Grandin Avenue around 3:00 AM on Sunday. Anyone with information about that fire is asked to call the Arson Tipline at 240.777.2263, Piringer tweeted Sunday night.

Photos by Pete Piringer/MCFRS

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rockville fire displaces residents

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel responded to a fire in the 1700 block of Pasture Brook Way in Rockville around 9:45 last night. They found a 3-story home ablaze in heavy fire. The initial investigation suggests the cause was ashes that had been disposed of in the garage, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer. Fire spread from the garage to the rest of the home, he said.

Over 75 firefighters were needed to extinguish the heavy flames. Neighbors called 911 to report the fire, Piringer said. Damage is estimated at over $600,000, and two adult residents have been displaced.

Piringer stressed the importance of properly disposing of fireplace ashes. Place them in a metal container with a lid, and never in a cardboard box, plastic trash can or bag. Once filled, place the container outside away from your house, or any combustible material. Never place ashes in the garage.

Photo: Pete Piringer/MCFRS

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fire at Fallsgrove apartment building

A kitchen fire triggered the sprinkler system at an apartment building in the 700 block of Fallsgrove Drive around 10:45 PM last night. The small fire was quickly extinguished, but produced some smoke, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. No injuries were reported.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Burning bed at Americana Center evacuates residents

Montgomery County firefighters responded to the Americana Center last night around 9:45 PM, after a mattress caught fire on the 13th floor of the building. A partial evacuation was required due to smoke, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. Firefighters quickly got the fire under control, however. No injuries were reported.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fire at Noodles and Company in Rockville Town Square

A kitchen fire brought Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel to Noodles and Company last night. The fire was quickly extinguished, and there were no injuries, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer. However, there is no word - as of this writing - as to if the restaurant will reopen today, or the extent of the damage.

Friday, December 26, 2014


A house fire in the unit block of Marcia Court early this morning around 1:35 AM was extinguished by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue services. The fire was in the recreation room of the house, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer. All residents managed to escape, but one was evaluated for injuries by EMS personnel. The street is located near the natural boundary of Rock Creek Park in Twinbrook Forest.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Yesterday morning's devastating fire destroyed many apartments in the Gables Upper Rock apartment complex off I-270 and Shady Grove Road. Fortunately, the fire was within an unoccupied part of the complex, which had been expected to open for leasing soon. Instead, crews are turning to a demolition and debris-removal operation today. Equipment was moving into place last evening for that purpose. I'm curious if the sprinkler systems were active at this point in the construction; we're often told by developers that less firefighting resources are needed even as development grows, due to modern sprinkler systems.

Montgomery County firefighters, and at least 4 firetrucks, remained on scene late last night, to inspect and extinguish any remaining hotspots in the wreckage.

MCFRS public information officer Pete Piringer tweeted the following photos of the scene; you can see some of the heavy equipment moving into place for today's operations:

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Montgomery County Fire and Rescue responded to a multiple alarm blaze on Watts Branch Parkway this morning in Rockville.

MCFRS Public Information Officer Scott Graham described the fire as "heavy," but reported no injuries.

Firefighters successfully put out the flames, and Graham says investigators are now looking into the cause of the fire, which was at the Karma Academy, he said.