5-alarm fire in College Park placed under control

A massive five-alarm fire ignited Monday at a building under construction in College Park, Prince George’s County fire officials said.

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The fire broke out in the 4700 block of Berwyn House Road in a building that was under construction. Heavy smoke from the fire blanketed much of College Park.

Crews encountered thick smoke and flames on the fifth and sixth floors. Firefighters were hindered by not being able to fight the fire from the top floors, which have since collapsed.

“This is what we call a doughnut-type construction. There is a doughnut hole in the middle, backs up to a residential community, so it has been very difficult to get fire apparatus back in that area,” Prince George’s County Fire Chief Ben Barksdale said.

Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady said in a tweet that this fire is “one of, if not the largest fire suppression efforts in county history.”

More than 200 firefighters and more than 50 pieces of equipment from several jurisdictions responded to the fire. Firefighters made a stand much of the day behind what they call a three-hour firewall, trying to keep the inferno from spreading to the front of the building.

The fire roared through empty spaces, devouring lots of wood, which, combined with the lack of access, made gaining control of the fire a day-long challenge.

There is no word of any injuries and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Due to poor air quality from the fire, the University of Maryland-College Park announced it would close at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Many students couldn’t resist taking pictures.

“It’s pretty impressive. I didn’t think it would be like this big when I first saw it from a distance, but it’s pretty smoky,” said Chris Hsiung, a student.

“I’m really glad that no one is living in these apartment buildings yet and no one was hurt. I know they were almost done with the project, so that’s kind of crazy, but at least everyone was out of harm’s way,” said Shavani Reyna, a student.

A senior citizen residence next door was evacuated as a precaution. There were 65 residents taken to the College Park Community Center, and some had trouble breathing.

“They (were) knocking on doors, and I happened to look out the window and saw and got out,” said Geraldine Breeze, who was displaced.

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