What’s with all the fires in Bowie?
After three major house fires in Bowie this past weekend, which were preceded by nine other fires in the prior two months, this question is in the minds and on the lips of Bowie’s city officials.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor attended the city’s most recent council meeting to offer some explanation of the recent blazes.
Smart Meter Concerns
The first thing Bashoor, a Bowie resident, wanted to make clear was that none of the 14 fires that had occurred in Bowie since May of 2012 were related to smart meters.
“Categorically, none of these fires had anything to do with the smart meters,” said Bashoor.
Though there have been some reports nationwide of smart meter related fires, particularly in Pennsylvania and Florida, Bashoor said that the smart meters installed in Bowie by Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) were a completely different model and made by a different manufacturer.
“Now, I’m not here marketing for BGE, I’m just telling you the facts as I know them,” Bashoor said.
Bashoor also said that he had spoken with the Maryland State Fire Marshall just pror to the council meeting, and he said that there had been no smart meter fires reported in the entire state of Maryland.
Causes of the Fires
The high rate of accidental fires in Bowie is unusual, said Bashoor. Of the 14 fires in Bowie over the past ten months, eight have been ruled accidental, two have been ruled arson, and four are still under investigation.
Saturday’s fire at the assisted living facility was ruled accidental, caused by a malfunctioning furnace. The fires on Kingsfield and Price Lanes are still under investigation said Bashoor. He gave a rundown of the other 11 fires and their causes:
- The fire on Keynote Lane was ruled accidental, and cooking related.
- The townhouse fire on Empress Way, also ruled accidental, started in the chimney chase when timbers in the wall heated up, caught fire, and the fire spread to the attic.
- Pond Meadow Lane was determined to be arson, and a resident of the home was arrested in connection with that incident.
- The fire on Knowledge Lane was ruled accidental, caused by a plug in an air freshener.
- A fire on Nashua Lane was ruled accidental, also cooking related.
- On Morland Drive another fire was ruled accidental, caused when items stacked in a closet too close to an incandescent light bulb caught fire.
- The YMCA fire is still under investigation.
- The Shadow Drive fire was ruled an arson, and an arrest has been made in that case.
- A large house fire on Teal Lane was also ruled accidental, caused by an outdoor generator.
- On Northridge Court, an electrical fire was ruled accidental, but had nothing to do with a smart meter socket or the meter itself.
- A fire on Nicholas Lane is still under investigation.
“Those are the only two common causes out of the 14 of those fires,” said Bashoor, referring to the cooking fires and the heating related fires. “The only other two were arson and we made arrests in both of those, so that’s a good thing.”
Fire Safety and Prevention
Bashoor said part of the responsibility for the high incidence of accidental fires in Bowie lies with the fire department.
“Something isn't working in the city to have this many fires accidental. Something the fire department is doing isn't working,” he said.
After large incidents, Bashoor said firefighters go door to door, talking to residents about fire safety and prevention. This is their most effective method of raising public awareness.
The PGFD also has a Safety First campaign on the first of every month that they hope to expand. The Northview fire station is also being assigned one additional firefighter per shift as part of PGFD’s redeployment of 22 career firefighters from other stations throughout the county.