Thursday, August 11, 2016

Piney Branch Rd. fire/explosion injures civilians, FFs; mass casualty incident declared

Update 5:24 AM: 5-7 people unaccounted for in Piney Branch Road explosion and fire, according to MCFRS; search teams are using K-9s; the musical chairs regarding the shelter for displaced residents now has them at Long Branch Community Center, about 60 residents sheltering there

Update 2:55 AM: Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security deployed to Piney Branch scene, along with MCHHS and American Red Cross

Update 2:40 AM: Firefighter reports via radio that there appears to be a "gas-fed fire" in a second floor apartment on the rear side of an unspecified building at the Piney Branch scene

Update 2:32 AM: Firefighter says via radio that he sees active fire in a 1st floor apartment at 8703 Arliss Street; chief informs crews inside upper floor of that building that there may be fire below them; MCFRS cannot locate Pepco rep on scene to address electrical issues

Update 2:26 AM:  MCFRS spokesman says damage includes structural collapse of apartment building where explosion occurred, and collateral damage to nearby buildings; shelter for displaced victims now reported to have moved from Blair HS to Long Branch Public Library at 8700 Piney Branch Road, according to Dee Howard Richards of MCFRS

Update 2:20 AM:  MCFRS spokesman says about 2 dozen injured in explosion/fire, many more evaluated by EMS personnel; firefighters still asking for help from Pepco - they can still see lights on in the rear of the apartment building at 8703 Arliss Street, according to scanner reports: "We really need Pepco;" another firefighter at scene reports "at this point, there's no visible fire in 8701" Piney Branch Road; fire chief says via radio they are trying to get crews into left side of 8701

Update 1:50 AM: Firefighters still seeing blue flames at the scene, indicating gas-fed fire; one says "let it burn through the roof, and see what we've got;" Washington Gas still working to shut off gas to two other buildings; still concern that power lines could fall on firefighters: "We need Pepco back here," firefighter says; UNCONFIRMED report: Civilians victims include 29-year-old female transported to Medstar Washington Hospital Center, 6-month-old child transported to Children's Hospital

Update 1:39 AM: At least 2 firefighters injured, transported to local hospitals; one to Shady Grove Adventist, one to Walter Reed, according to scanner reports

Update 1:26 AM: Fire still active, HHS opening shelter for residents

An explosion and fire at an apartment building early this morning in the 8600 block of Piney Branch Road near Arliss Street, in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring, has been declared a mass casualty incident. There are multiple injuries to civilians and firefighters, including burns. Firefighters are still trying to locate and evacuate any remaining residents, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Pete Piringer.

The three-alarm blaze is being fed by natural gas, and the fire and explosion have caused extensive structural damage to the apartment building. According to scanner reports, Washington Gas is on-scene and "working in the front yard." Firefighters were instructed to use caution until Washington Gas can cut off gas service to the affected properties.

MCFRS has not yet publicly identified the name of the apartment complex, but have given the address as 8644/8701 Piney Branch Road.

"We're going to be re-engaging [when] the gas is out," a firefighter said at 1:16 AM via radio.

"There is no more fire, but this is an extremely unstable building," another firefighter said a minute later. However, by 1:23 AM, another firefighter reported an "active fire" at another location of the building.

According to Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker, the County Department of Health and Human Services is setting up a temporary shelter for the many displaced residents of the complex at Blair High School. Hucker also says that the American Red Cross is now also assisting displaced residents.

Stay tuned for updates here, and at @SilverSprung on Twitter.

Photos via Pete Piringer/MCFRS

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