On Wednesday morning, an explosion and fire tore through a condo building in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Twelve people were hurt, and two of them were hurt very badly.
At about 8:40 a.m., the explosion was reported at the Potomac Oaks Condominium, a row of garden-style condos in the 800 block of Quince Orchard Boulevard near Rabbitt Road.
Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein told reporters that most people seem to have been found after the blast. Goldstein later said that rescue workers had seen all the people who lived in the four buildings affected by the explosion, except for those who lived in one unit at 826 Quince Orchard Blvd., which partially collapsed.
Crews couldn’t search nine units because the conditions were too dangerous. And on Wednesday night, the chief said that stabilising the building so it could be searched would take days. Crews will bring a crane, lights, and a fence to the site Wednesday night.
Overall, the blast did a lot of damage to two buildings and caused them to fall in parts. Two other facilities connected to these two were evacuated because their structures may be damaged.
Still, no one knows how many people will have to leave their homes because of the blast, but Goldstein said it could be between 50 and 75 people. In all, 24 units in the four buildings can’t be lived.
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At 3 p.m., residents could go to the Activity Center at Bohrer Park, at 506 S. Frederick St. in Gaithersburg, near Gaithersburg High School, to get help and a place to stay.
Patrick Campbell, who works for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said that the centre would help people with housing, food, crisis services, and getting their medicine. Campbell said 100% of the funds would go to residents.
4 Kids Got Hurt
The fire chief said that ten people hurt were taken to hospitals, and two were in critical condition. Both of them are adults. Goldstein said the injuries to the other eight people, including four children, were “mild to moderate.”
By 9:30 a.m., firefighters had put out most of the fire after battling heavy flames and smoke. However, Goldstein said Wednesday afternoon that the rubble would likely continue to smoke for several hours or even days.
When firefighters arrived, they found what Goldstein called a “gas-fed fire” in one of the building’s basements. Before firefighters could put out the flames, Washington Gas had to turn off the gas. Goldstein also said it’s still too early to know what caused the explosion.
Goldstein said in response to multiple questions from reporters, “Natural gas is not a suspect” in the explosion. He then added that it would be looked into as a possible cause. “Please remember that this event has only been going on for about six or seven hours,” Goldstein said late Wednesday night. “It’s too soon to conclude.”
Goldstein said that some people told fire investigators at the scene that they smelled gas before the explosion. However, he said, a review of the 911 call logs showed that no calls were made Wednesday morning.
Goldstein said that the Fire Department did answer a 911 call on September 22 about a possible gas leak at 826 Quince Orchard Blvd. He said a few hours later that the call was about an appliance, so Washington Gas was not called. The resident was told to talk to the person who sold or fixed the machine.
As a safety measure, Goldstein said that workers checked for gas leaks in all the apartments in the 700 and 800 blocks of Quince Orchard Boulevard. “When the residents come back to this complex tonight, they should feel safe knowing that firefighters and rescue workers have gone through all of the units and checked them, as well as the common areas,” Goldstein said.
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Goldstein also said that if you smell gas, you should leave the building immediately and call 911. Goldstein said Wednesday night that in the four buildings in question, property management hadn’t been contacted about any work or problems in the last two weeks.
He said excavation work was going on in a parking lot about 40 to 50 feet from the back of the building at the time of the blast. Goldstein noted that contractors were working on steam and water pipes, but there was no sign that it was related.
MCPD and @mcfrs will be holding a media briefing on the Quince Orchard Blvd condo explosion at 5:30 p.m.
The briefing will be streamed on the MCPD Facebook page.
— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) November 17, 2022
Everything In The Building Shook
Goldstein said that around 8:40 a.m., there was a “deluge” of 911 calls to the fire department about the explosion. Photos from the scene showed a three-story brick building with partially collapsed and debris piles. Videos from the scene showed that the front doors of some building units had been blown into the parking lot a few dozen feet away from the building.
The fire chief said a quick-thinking maintenance crew using a painter’s ladder saved two people from the fire before firefighters arrived. One of the people kept was a resident who jumped from a back balcony. Linson Antonio Matute, who lives nearby, told WTOP that he ran to the building when he heard the explosion and saw flames coming from it.
As he got close to the front door, he saw four people trying to get out. One of them was a woman with a baby. Matute told WTOP in Spanish, “We were shouting at them to come out, but they couldn’t because there was a lot of smoke, and all we could see were their phone flashlights.”
Matute and another person finally went into the building to help get everyone out, including the baby, who seemed fine. Tyrell Singleton heard the blast because he lives close to the building. “You can like feel like the vibration,” he said. “It was loud.”
He said that when he and other people went to the scene, the front of the building had fallen, and there was a hole in the ground. Brandon Savage, who owns a small business across the street from the building that caught fire, also heard the explosion.
He told WTOP, “The whole building shook.” “I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. It was a terrifying thing to go through.” Adriana Hernandez was staying with her cousins near where the explosion happened. She said that they heard a “deafening noise.” Then her cousin started getting calls on her phone.
She said, “We got our pets, bundled up, and said, ‘Let’s try to go somewhere else.'” “We didn’t know if our buildings were safe because we heard on the phone that there was an explosion in the apartment buildings, and we live in this complex right here.” She said that when she went outside and looked up, she saw “probably the biggest cloud of smoke” she had ever seen.
“The smoke was so thick and dark right after the explosion,” said Hernandez. “It seemed to take over the whole neighbourhood.” There were more than 100 fire and rescue crews at the scene.
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