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Fire Chief: High Rate of Accidental House Fires in Bowie 'Unusual'

Marc Bashoor offered the Bowie City Council some explanations for the recent spate of fires within city limits.

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.

John R. February 06, 2013 at 08:47 PM
What about the fire at the home on Price Lane in Pointer Ridge this past week?
Jenni Pompi (Editor) February 06, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Hi, John. Per the article, the fires on Kingsfield and Price Lanes are both still under investigation, according the the fire chief.
Dawn Eberly Wampler February 19, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Really??? This is the Fire Department's fault??? To my knowledge, the fire department has shown up at each of these fires and successfully extinguished them. That is their job. The frequency of these incidents shows a need for the City and its residents to increase their efforts to educate the community on fire safety. The worst use of our tax dollars for emergency services would be to make door-to-door education of all city residents the responsibility of the fire department. My tax dollars should go to make sure we have good working equipment and staff to man the equipment when there is an emergency. Homeowners Associations, Churches and schools are some of the places where the community gathers. These are some of the channels through which fire prevention information can be effectively disseminated; and that information should include the importance of home maintenance ... of your fireplace, safe heating practices, safe handling of kitchen fires, maintenance of heating and air conditioning units, to name a few. "Something the fire department is doing isn't working."??? Mr. Bashoor, let's put out a call to our communities, our citizens, not blame our hard-working fire departments.
Lynn February 19, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Fire investogators only go so far. All that needs to be determined is was the fire arson or "accidental". There is no detailed forensic investigation beyond that and there won't be. I guess someone is going to have to be killed first. This is sad and a perfect example of ONE PARTY RULE. I even got a lame excuse from the Attorney General's office (Doug Gansler) and he wants to be the next governor?
Lynn February 19, 2013 at 04:54 PM
I certainly AM NOT blamng thf fire department and I don't think anyone else is either. They are doing a great job. However, one of the fire safety issues that needs to be looked into is SMART METERS. Is it just a coincidnece that the increase in fires coincides with the deployment of SMART METERS? They are not UL listed, They have caused fires all over the world and that is a FACT! Political pressure and ONE PARTY rule in this state is interfering with the TRUTH. I contacted the fire dept. myself because I feel they are people I can trust. They had this SMART METER thing dumped on them and are scrambing to deal with it. It makes me so mad to hear about fire fighters geeting hurt and still denial that SMART METERS could be causing at least SOME of these fires.

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