More than 200 firefighters battled a massive five-alarm fire in College Park, Maryland, for hours, in what a spokesman called one of the largest fire suppression efforts in Prince George's County history with an estimated loss of $39 million.
The fire broke out Monday morning on the fifth floor of Fuse 47, a seven-story, mixed-use development of about 250 apartments and retail stores that was under construction in the 4700 block of Berwyn House Road, Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department spokesman Mark Brady said. The flames quickly spread to the sixth floor.
Crews brought the blaze under control by about 3 p.m. Monday, although many hot spots remain and will require firefighters' attention overnight, Brady said an in update on Twitter. Firefighters continue flowing water into the structure.
Since about 9:35 a.m., firefighters struggled to control the blaze.
"Our biggest challenge here has been access," acting Prince George's Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale said.
Firefighters said it was like battling a wood pile surrounded by concrete.
“With all that wood, it’s very hard to catch up with it,” Barksdale said.
The rainy weather caused the smoke to stay close to the ground, Brady said.
A woman who lives nearby told News4 a cloud of smoke settled on her house.
"The whole house is consumed with smoke," she said. "It's unbearable. I have to leave."
The University of Maryland College Park, located nearby, closed at 1 p.m. due to poor air quality, President Wallace Loh said. Students on campus were told to stay inside and close their windows and doors.
"Everything on campus smells like burnt electronics or something," student Emory Bacon said.
Senior citizens living at the Spellman House across the street were relocated to a community center in the 4900 block of Lakeland Road. Northbound Baltimore Avenue remains closed.
Video from the scene showed flames and plumes of black smoke pouring from the roof of the building.
Because the Fuse 47 building was still under construction, there were many void spaces for the fire to travel through. The building's fire suppression system was also not fully operational, according to Barksdale.
University of Maryland students who planned on calling the building home watched in amazement.
“I was looking to rent there, and they were sending emails,” Alexis Ankrah said.
One member of the Office of Emergency Management suffered an ankle injury but was treated at the scene and remained there, Brady said. A second firefighter was transported to a hospital for overexertion.
All of the workers in the building when the fire started made it out safely.