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Deadly Prince George’s Fire Raises Questions About Firefighter Staffing, Response Times

The three closest fire stations to the blaze are volunteer stations and were not in service at the time

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A fire that killed one woman and left a man critically hurt on Saturday is raising some concerns about firefighter staffing and response times in Prince George's County, Maryland.

Flames and smoke poured out of the home on Inlet Street in New Carrollton.

The fire claimed the life of 57-year-old Anita Ellis, who relatives say was visiting the home at the time.

Firefighters had pulled Ellis and a man from the basement of the burning home. The man remains in critical condition.

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.

"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.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the victim's age was 40. She was 57.

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