BERLIN — Two residential home fires occurred almost simultaneously in northern Worcester County last Thursday evening, one in West Ocean City and the other near Showell.
Around 7:05 p.m., area firefighters responded to a residence on Riverview Drive in a subdivision outside Ocean Pines near Showell. First arriving units fond the large, two-story waterfront home fully involved with flames. The house was occupied at the time by the owners and no injuries were reported. The Ocean City Fire Boat was deployed and immediately engaged in water supply operations and also supported efforts by placing its roof-mounted master stream in service.
About 20 minutes later, a second fire was reported at a residence in West Ocean City. First arrivers found the rear exterior deck on fire with extension inside the house, located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Old Bridge Rd. and Golf Course Rd. The Ocean City Fire Department responded, along with fire companies from all over Worcester, Wicomico and Sussex County, Del.
In all, eight of the 10 fire companies in Worcester County were involved in either the suppression of the fire or on standby. With two active fires going on simultaneously, certain primary responders handle fire suppression while other companies back fill in stations vacated by the primary companies. In short, just about every fire company on the Lower Shore was active during the two blazes in some capacity.
“The response from all of the fire departments from the county as well as our neighboring counties was extraordinary,” said Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore. “It was a true demonstration of teamwork and I am extremely proud of the efforts of Ocean City’s first responders and those of our allied agencies.”
Deputy Chief David Cropper, who was the Incident Commander at the Old Bridge Rd. fire, echoed the chief’s sentiments about the collaborative efforts during two simultaneous residential fires.
“It’s very unusual for us to have multiple residential fires at the same time, requiring such significant resources,” he said. “Our members were professional and did exactly as they are trained to do. They should be tremendously proud of their hard work because I am certainly proud of them.”
The West Ocean City residence was occupied at the time, but no injuries were reported. However, that fire did result in the loss of two family pets. Both fires have been listed as accidental and information on the exact cause will be released by the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office at a later date.
Meanwhile, questions were raised about a non-functioning fire hydrant in the front yard of the West Ocean City residence that has been bagged for over a year. First responders quickly utilized other hydrants in the area and it is uncertain if the hydrant in the front yard of the residence could have made a difference.
Worcester County Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon said his agency was not aware the hydrant at the West Ocean City was not in service. McMahon explained each municipality in Worcester is responsible for maintaining its own water supply system, and in areas outside the towns, including West Ocean City, the responsibility falls to the county.
“If there was an issue with hydrants, we could intervene,” he said. “Each municipality maintains their own water source, but West Ocean City is unincorporated. In this case, we were unaware it wasn’t in service.”
The Worcester County Public Works Department could not be reached for comment.
Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters said this week, while the non-functioning hydrant at the West Ocean City fire did present some challenges, it did not affect the response time or operation of the Ocean City Fire Department at the scene.
“First and foremost, no emergency incident happens the same,” she said. “Our first responders train for various incidents and obstacles that occur during a response. This incident with the fire hydrant, while it certainly created an obstacle, did not affect the response of the operation. Our firefighters are trained to respond quickly and effectively, despite many different hurdles that can occur.”
Meanwhile, in the great Ocean City tradition of rallying for those in the community in need, efforts are already underway to support the West Ocean City family that lost nearly everything in that blaze. The Pusey family, including Jennifer and Brian, their two children Ashley and Bailey, along with a father-in-law, a nephew and the nephew’s girlfriend lost everything in the fire. They currently have a temporary place to stay. A Facebook page called Pusey Family Fire Recovery has been set up for those in the community who wish to help in their time of need. Organizers are asking the community to help with money and gift cards for clothing, groceries and other needs.
In addition, Calvin B. Taylor Bank is accepting donations for the Pusey family. Donations can be made at any bank branch. Also, donations can be made at Condominium Realty-Mark Fritschle Group.
The Pusey Family Fire Recovery group has also organized a fundraiser set for July 15 at the Ocean City Marlin Club in West Ocean City. A $10 donation per person will be collected at the door and lite fare from area restaurants will be served. There will also be a silent auction featuring gift certificates and gift baskets from area restaurants along with a 50-50 raffle and other events.