Beltsville fire displaces about 30 people

BELTSVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - Dozens of people are left without homes after a fire ripped through an apartment building on Cherry Hill Road in Beltsville Saturday.

Since it’s a holiday weekend, many of the homeowners were home when the fire broke out, but they say they didn’t hear fire alarms or smell smoke.

It was a full day of loss for Michael Chambers. The single father's condo is charred and gutted, but his loss started earlier in the afternoon as he was burying a loved one. Emotionally exhausted he returned home, unaware a fire had been smoldering in the storage closet he shares with a neighbor.

“Opened up the storage closet and saw the flames flickering,” he says. “Got my extinguisher. I got it out, but it was already in the walls.”

Firefighters were on scene in just minutes, but were unaware the flames had retreated into the walls until they walked into the three-story building.

“As they were inside, the fire came down on top of them from above,” says Chief Marc Bashoor of the Prince George’s County EMS.

The two-alarm fire spread to six units, displacing about 30 people.

“We were running out,” says Gilda Mesa. “My kids didn’t have clothes.”

Mesa's family was preparing the Christmas tree, completely unaware the ceiling upstairs was burning. The family suffered another fire just two years ago.

“It’s twice in less than three years, and we’re scared now," she says.

Beltsville volunteer firefighters were so emotionally moved by what they saw they’ve giving from their own pockets.

Investigators say the fire was caused by a lamp that tipped over. The Red Cross is on standby for those without housing. There were no injuries.