COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJLA) - Covered in soot with shovels in hand, crews worked from daybreak to early afternoon on Sunday clearing out a charred College Park home -- where one man was killed in an early morning fire.
Fire officials say crews responded to the 5200 block of Palco Place just after 5 a.m. They found the fire on separate floors in the two-story home.
Killed in the fire was 82-year-old Reginald Orem.
Heather Rivas lives four doors down and says she was awakened by sirens.
"We didn't know if the firemen were going to be able to contain it,” she said.
For 90 minutes, nearly a hundred firefighters fought heavy flames as they raged through the top two floors of the home and spread to the roof. Amidst the chaos, an elderly woman was able to escape, but Orem.
After multiple searches inside the home, firefighters finally found Reginald. He was pronounced dead on the scene. The woman was transported to an area hospital with smoke inhalation.
In the aftermath, piles of papers and books covered the lawn, indicating possible hoarding conditions inside. It was such a severe situation that it posed a threat to the firefighters’ safety.
Fire investigators can’t say for sure whether excess debris caused the fire, but they say it may have fed the flames.
According to Prince George's County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady, an "extreme congestion of materials" in the house made it hard for firefighters to move.
"I'm just very sad you know, I've known them all my life,” said Sheila Saulder, who grew up with the family and says the husband was a writer – one possible reason for so many journals and books inside the house.
She knew of their situation inside, but never thought it would come to this.