Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Fire started by 8-year-old at Springhill Lake displaces 19 residents

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Photo courtesy of Mark Brady, Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman
A fire occurred at 9113 Springhill Lane in the Springhill Lake apartment complex in Greenbelt at about 7:15 p.m. Jan. 30. The fire was caused by an 8-year-old playing with matches.
A fire that officials say was started by an 8-year-old boy Jan. 30 at the Springhill Lake Apartments in Greenbelt caused no injuries but displaced 19 residents and damaged 11 units.

The boy was playing with matches and ignited bedding just before 7:15 p.m., said Mark Brady, a county fire spokesman.

‘‘There is always a curiosity of fire from young children. The fire department has noticed the propensity of fire setters are 5 to 10 year old males,” Brady said. ‘‘If parents notice a propensity for fire in their child more than just the casual curiosity it should spark concern.”

Upon arriving at the complex, located at 9113 Springhill Lane, firefighters saw a three-story, non-sprinklered, garden-style building with a first-floor unit on fire. That fire extended to the second and third floors and almost spread to the roof, according to a fire department news release. More than 60 firefighters and medics responded to the scene.

The fire was contained and extinguished within 20 minutes. Apartment Investment Management Company, the apartment owner, is assisting residents who were displaced until other arrangements can be made. Fire loss is estimated at $100,000.

Brady said the child who started the fire will not be charged, but will be referred to the Fire⁄EMS Department Matchless Opportunities Program, which provides education and intervention for juvenile fire setters. Parents and caregivers that have a child who tends to play with fire, matches or lighters can get assistance from the program by calling 301-306-5685.