New Carrollton fire leaves several displaced

(Photo: Brad Bell/WJLA)

Forty-three apartments may be affected by a fire that tore through a New Carrollton complex Monday. A bad natural gas stove is to blame. At least 11 apartments are uninhabitable from fire, heat, smoke and water damage. Residents in two attached buildings may also be displaced because of a lack of utilities.

The fire happened around 1 p.m. at the Sutton Walk apartment complex on 85th Avenue.

Firefighters arrived to find smoke pouring from the three-story, garden apartment building. The fire originated in a second floor unit and spread up and out, causing $750,000 in damage.

Neighbor Ilona Turner called 911 and watched in horror as the fire grew.

"I just saw black smoke coming out of the balcony, and the next thing I saw was flames up to the ceiling...," Turner recalled.

No residents were injured, but two firefighters were taken to MedStar with minor burns.

It took 50 firefighters 30 minutes to knock the fire out.

Over the last two days, fire crews have been busy with calls from Maryland's suburbs.

Earlier Monday, a fireplace fire in Evelyn Horne's Seat Pleasant home escaped through a crack chimney.

"It was a lot of smoke. I just thought it was smoke in the room, but it was actually burning into the house," Horne said.

She and her husband got out of their home okay.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case Sunday morning for an Oxon Hill man. Fifty-nine-year-old Doug Williams died from injuries received in a house fire. Fire officials say he tried to refill a lit kerosene heater inside his home. His neighbor,{ } Orlando Dozier, said Williams used kerosene to supplement expensive oil for his furnace.

"That time of morning I know him, he up watching a movie or whatever in the living room trying to be warm. Somehow he didn't make it out," Dozier explained.

Also Sunday, a malfunctioning heater started a duplex fire in Hyattsville.

Food left on a stove burned a house in Forestville, and in Bethesda, a garage fire claimed half a home.

Fire officials in Oxon Hill went door-to-door Monday, preaching fire safety. They blame the recent cold snap for the increase in fire calls.

"We're busy already, but we get crazy busy when cold weather hits and people try to stay warm," said Prince George's County Fire Department Spokesman Mark Brady.

He added, "...people need to be safe when they're using those alternative forms of heating."

As Ilona Turner saw Monday - even small fires can get mighty big, mighty fast.

She continued, "I mean, I've never seen anything like that before. It was horrific."

The Prince George's County Fire Department advises you take the following precautions when heating your home in the winter:

• Consider using a newer model space heater that has safety features{ } built-in.

• Give space heaters space. Keep three-feet between the space heater and any flammable materials.

• Have furnaces and fireplaces cleaned and ensure they're in good working order. It is recommended to have chimneys cleaned and furnaces inspected annually.