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Princes Georges County, MD Firefighter Burned in House Fire is from NC

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Kevin O’Toole, 22, left, and Buies Creek native Ethan Sorrell, 21, right, at the Washington Hospital Center. The two men were responding to a house fire in Maryland, where Mr. Sorrell is a volunteer fireman and student, when a gust of wind produced a ‘blowtorch’ effect in the structure.

PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY, MD – A Harnett County firefighter is in critical condition in a Washington, D.C., hospital after sustaining severe burns on call at a Maryland house fire last week.  On Friday, Ethan Sorrell, 21, a 2009 graduate of Harnett Central High School and student at the University of Maryland, responded to a house fire in Riverdale Heights, Md., with the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department, where he is a fireman while attending college.

The house reportedly had fire showing from a basement window. After the firefighters assessed the situation, they began to enter the residence, but a sudden gust of wind ripped through the structure, creating a blowtorch effect as the blaze was pushed out of the home.
Seven firefighters were injured during the fireball, among them Mr. Sorrell.

“As soon as the guys opened the front door and advanced, it blew from the basement, up the steps and right out the front door — It was like a blowtorch coming up the steps and out the door,” Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor told The Washington Post.  The entire incident — “from the time they were in the door until they were burned — took eight seconds,” Chief Bashoor said. The firefighters inside the house “did everything they were trained to do,” he added, but they were essentially defenseless.

Eventually, another team of firefighters extinguished the flames, the cause of which remains under investigation.

On Sunday, The Post reported that Mr. Sorrell and another Bladensburg fireman, Kevin O’Toole, 22, remain at the Washington Hospital Center.
Mr. Sorrell sustained respiratory burns through his esophagus and down to his lungs. He is unable to speak, but has been communicating with a pen and paper.  Mr. O’Toole suffered second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body. He is scheduled for skin-graft surgery and will be in the burn unit at the Washington hospital for six weeks, according to reports.

Mr. Sorrell’s father, Vann, himself a volunteer firefighter in Buies Creek, told The Post that,  “When you go into it, you know the dangers,” but the Sorrell men “just have that need to serve.”

In a news release on the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department website, Chief Randy Kuenzil said Mr. Sorrell is in critical, but stable condition.   “Currently, Ethan remains intubated. He is in good spirits barring the discomfort but is communicating well by writing — to chat with his family who have been by his side and many friends. Ethan will undergo some evaluations (this week) which, if all goes well, will help determine his continued length of stay,” he said.

Mr. Sorrell’s firefighting career began in Buies Creek, where he joined the Buies Creek Volunteer Fire Department in July of 2006, then Dunn Emergency Services in August of 2008. He is part of the class of 2013 at the University of Maryland, where he studies emergency management and fire science.

Mr. Sorrell also attended the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute at the University of Maryland from April 2010 to July of last year. He joined the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department Company 9 in February of last year.

“We didn’t see a whole lot of him after his graduation, because he was going to school in Maryland, but he would come here and volunteer during his time back home. He’s a good firefighter. The last I heard, a group of guys at Buies Creek (Fire Department) are planning on going to see him on Wednesday,” said Dunn Emergency Services Fire Chief Austin Tew.

Buies Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jamie Rose is currently visiting with Mr. Sorrell. Phone calls to the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department were not immediately returned.

(From, courtesy the Daily Record)


Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Ethan Sorrell Released from Hospital

Firefighter Ethan Sorrell being released from the Medstar Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center. Sorrell was brought home on Truck 809, the rig that took him to the fire on 57th Avenue Friday night when he was burned.

PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY, MD – Bladensburg VFD Firefighter Kevin O’Toole remains at the burn unit and is expected to do for some time due to burns over 40% of his body.

Earlier today PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady issued this press release outlining the three pronged investigation Chief Marc Bashoor has ordered looking into Friday night’s fire that injured seven firefighters:

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor has stated that he will ensure a thorough and complete investigation into the incident that resulted in seven firefighters being injured. On Friday evening, February 24, 2012, firefighters responded to 911 reports of a house fire at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale. Two of the injured firefighters remain hospitalized in the Burn Unit at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center.

In order to discover the chain of events and circumstances which contributed to the outcome of this incident, Fire Chief Bashoor has issued a high-priority directive for the Department to immediately embark on a thorough investigation which will involve three parallel, ongoing and interrelated disciplines:

• Determination of Cause and Origin – as is customarily conducted under the direction of our Office of the Fire Marshall.

• An Operational Review and After Action Report – Conducted under the direction of our Emergency Services Command.

• A Thorough Safety Audit of the Incident – by a Safety Investigation Team (SIT), this will be conducted under the direction of the Risk Management and Safety Office, by both internal and external partners that the Fire Chief will select.

Fire Chief Bashoor wrote to members of the Fire/EMS Department, “If we are to truly learn from this experience, we MUST first be honest with ourselves and honest and forthcoming with information that these teams will need.”

It is important to note that all three Investigative Teams will be regularly communicating their progress. The SIT will be selected from both internal and external resources to assure independent verification of fact.

Bashoor stated. “It is my intent to leave no stone un-turned and no question un-asked as we seek to discover the contributing factors that precipitated this incident. As Fire Chief, I commit to you that each of these inquests will be open and honest. I further commit that the eventual findings will be promptly released in the form of a written After Action Report.” He concluded, “This After Action Report will serve to benefit not only firefighters in Prince George’s County but will be made available to all fire departments to assist them in avoiding similar circumstances.”

An annoucemnt concerning the cause and origin of the fire is ecpected within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Additional details at

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