A Prince George’s County, Md. father and his two young daughters were killed in a fire that swept through their Glenarden, Md. home in the early morning hours of Feb. 21.

Authorities said the fire was reported by neighbors at about 4 a.m. after witnesses saw the family’s one-story home on Leslie Avenue engulfed in flames. Fire officials said the man, his wife and their four daughters were sleeping when the fire started. The mother and one of the girls, an 8-year old twin, were able to escape by leaping from a window. The father, the other 8-year-old twin, a 5-year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl were brought out of the house by rescuers, but were not breathing.

Of the latter group, the father, the 5-year-old and the twin never regained consciousness and were pronounced dead a short time later. The oldest girl was resuscitated by rescuers and transported to an area hospital where she was listed in grave condition on Feb. 22, according to a fire department spokesman.

Officials did not immediately release the names of the deceased, pending autopsies scheduled for Feb. 22. However, an acquaintance identified the victims as Darrell Price Jr., 36, and his daughters Tania, 8, and Patrice, 4. The surviving family members were identified as Teresa Price, 33, and her daughters Daijah, 11, and Tamia, 8.

Darrell Price worked as an auto mechanic. The family was undertaking some renovation work in the house, the acquaintance said, and the fire may have started from an electrical source in the living room in the front of the house. There were no smoke detectors in the house, officials said.

“It appears that a fire of accidental origin occurred that spread thick toxic smoke throughout the home,” Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department chief spokesman Mark Brady said. “Two members were able to escape safely after jumping from a window. Tragically, four others did not.”

Brady urged local residents to equip their homes with smoke detectors.

“One of the first things we do is see if there are any smoke detectors and working smoke detectors,” he said. “We believe the occupants were not protected by that life-saving device.”

Prince George’s fire officials will provide free smoke detectors to county residents and will install them free of charge, as well. Residents are encouraged to call 311 or 301-864-SAFE (7233) to schedule an appointment for smoke detectors to be installed.

The children attended Judge Syvania Woods Elementary School in Glenarden, Md. Grief counselors were at the school on Feb. 22 to help the children deal with the loss of their classmates, an employee said.

“Everybody is doing okay so far,” she said. “So far, so good.”

The deaths brought to eight the number of people who have died in Prince George’s this year in fire-related incidents. In January, a man and a woman were killed in an arson inside a group home in New Carrollton, Md. Police arrested Anthony A. Allain, 44, and charged him with killing the two victims by allegedly setting the blaze and blocking the door so they had difficulty getting out.

Fire officials are concerned about the uptick in fire fatalities. Last year, 10 people died in fires in the county, only two more than in the first two months of this year, Brady said.

“For the past dozen or so years we have averaged in the single digits,” Brady said. “Why the spike, we don’t know.”

The firefighters are coping with the newest tragedy in their own way.

“They know they did everything they could yesterday to rescue the group inside and provided the best possible emergency services,” Brady said. “But it does take a toll emotionally and that is compounded when someone young and has the rest of their lives ahead of them is taken away.”


Jacqueline James

Special to the AFRO