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Beloved Prince George’s Co. School Bus Driver Killed in Fire

"It's just unbelievable"

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A woman who died in a house fire in New Carrollton, Maryland, on Saturday was a Prince George's County school bus driver beloved by students and coworkers.

Anita Ellis, 57, was trapped in the basement of a home that caught fire about 6 p.m. on Inlet Street.

Firefighters pulled her and her boyfriend from the basement. Ellis died a short time later at the hospital.

Her boyfriend remains in critical condition.

Relatives and friends gathered to remember Ellis Monday night.

"I am going to miss my mother so much. My mother was my everythng," Ellis' daughter, April Williams-Ruth, said.

"I lost a true friend and somebody that was always there for me," one man at the vigil said.

Coworkers said Ellis was a longtime school bus driver for the county.

"I just saw her Friday. We were cutting up … as always. It's just unbelievable," one of Ellis' coworkers said.

"She's not only a bus driver, she's a friend and she's a part of my family, and I'm going to miss her 100 percent," another coworker said.

Friends described Ellis as a "beautiful soul" who was always happy and giving.

Family members are mourning a woman who died in a raging house fire in Prince George's County. News4's Derrick Ward reports some have raised concerns about a lack of firefighter staffing in the county in light of the deadly fire.

The fire raised some concerns about a lack of firefighter staffing and response times in the county.

Andrew Pantellis, the district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters, said Sunday the three closest volunteer fire stations "failed to respond when dispatched due to not having firefighters in their stations at the time."

The first unit to arrive to the scene of the fire arrived at 6:11 p.m., seven minutes after the first dispatch call at 6:04 p.m., the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department said in a statement Sunday.

Fire officials say the department's goal is to have the first unit on the scene within 5 minutes and 20 seconds. The department has a "secondary goal" to have 15 firefighters on the scene within 12 minutes of dispatch.

Firefighters rescued the first person from the basement at 6:16 p.m. and the second person was rescued two minutes later, according to the department.

A fire that killed one woman and left a man critically hurt has raised some concerns about fire department staffing and response times in Prince George's County, Maryland. News4's Derrick Ward reports.

"I wouldn't say there was a delay. The closest available unit was able to respond appropriately and mitigate the incident. Our goal was to have 15 firefighters on the scene of a call within 12 minutes and we were able to accomplish that," Deputy Chief Brian Frankel said Sunday.

Pantellis says staffing has been an ongoing issue in that area of the county.

"Even looking at the regular drive time between all of those stations the difference is over four minutes.," he said.

The fire department said an internal review of staffing needs is underway.

The Prince George's County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association posted a statement on Facebook Sunday saying the majority of the firefighters who responded were volunteers.

PGCVFRA President Trader has issued the following statement....It has been been brought to Prince Georges County...

Posted by Pgcvfra - Prince George's County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association on Sunday, January 19, 2020

Pantellis acknowledged there is no way to know whether the outcome would have been different had one of the closer stations had the personnel to respond.

There were no working smoke alarms in the home, according to fire officials.

The fire apparently started in the basement and doesn't appear to be suspicious, the department said.

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