A malfunctioning heating and air-conditioning unit was the cause of a two-alarm fire at a New Carrollton apartment building Tuesday that left 120 residents displaced, Prince George County fire officials say.
Eight people had to be rescued from the upper floors of the burning apartment building, including a woman with an infant.
"All I could see was darkness...I truly didn't know if I was going to live or die,” said the woman, Loretta Battle. She was holding her 1.5-year-old granddaughter out of the window of her third-floor apartment, she said.
"I held my grandbaby out of the window… she was gasping for breaths so desperately. All I could think was (to) hold her out the window," Battle said. Firefighters first rescued the girl, then Battle.
"My intention wasn't to throw her, but if I had to, I think that I would have to save her life instead of mine,” Battle said. She was taken to a hospital, where she stayed overnight.
Firefighters even rescued a two-month-old kitten from the thick smoke. The cat, named Cora, belongs to 6-year-old Makayla. "I think it was nice of them to get my cat out of the house,” the girl said.(Picture submitted by an ABC7 viewer)
Fire engulfs two stories of building
The fire extended from the second floor to the roof of the three-to-four story building at 5328 85th Avenue. Four people had to be taken to a hospital, a fire department spokesperson said, and 120 residents are displaced.
A resident alerted three New Carrollton police officers, who were in the area, to the fire at about 8:30 p.m., according to officials. The officers went to the scene and began telling residents inside to get out of the building. They couldn’t move up beyond the second floor landing because of the fire.
Residents on upper floors couldn’t escape through the interior stairwell due to the high heat and thick smoke. They yelled for help from balconies and windows.
Firefighters rescued six people from the upper-floor balconies with ground ladders. A woman and an infant were rescued uninjured from an upper-floor window.
The fire blazed through the upper floors and eventually into the roof before it was brought under control after about 40 minutes. The building is a block from Annapolis Road and about two block from I-495.
The total loss is estimated at $250,000.
Four people hospitalized, four buildings damaged
Four residents were taken to area hospitals with minor illnesses or injuries. Ten additional residents were treated on scene but did not require hospitalization.
The fire damaged two buildings, displacing about 120 residents, officials say. In addition to the two damaged buildings, two other apartment buildings had to be evacuated because utilities have been shut off. The County Citizen Services Unit and the Red Cross will be assisting those displaced, according to officials.
Nearly 100 firefighters, paramedics, medical personnel and support staff were involved in the response. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.