BY HEATHER MARLÉNE ZADIG
An apartment fire broke out this afternoon, May 3, at 2:04 p.m. on the 6100 block of 42nd Place, according to both witnesses and the Prince George’s County Fire Department (PGFD) Twitter feed. The PGFD Battalion Chief 884, who declined to give his name, initially said in a brief interview that it was a small fire with no injuries, but the Twitter post at 5:00 p.m. from the department’s account reported that one adult man was found dead within the unit containing the fire. Hyattsville police on the scene declined to comment on the cause, citing an in-progress investigation.
Hyattsville Police have since confirmed that the unidentified male deceased was a victim of a homicide. They have contacted the Prince George’s County Police Department for assistance with the investigation. The police department indicates that this was an isolated incident.
The fire at the three-story brick Oliver Gardens Apartment building drew at least five different firetrucks from the county, College Park, and Silver Spring fire departments. At least 13 marked and unmarked Hyattsville Police Department vehicles arrived over the next hour to investigate, and all traffic was shut down between Oliver Street and Queensbury Road for multiple hours for the investigation, with emergency vehicles packed throughout the long block in between.
“It’s never good when they bring out the yellow tape and vans that look like that,” said building resident Virgie Hicks, pointing out the unusually high number of vehicles, the large gathering of police detectives, and an officer wearing a vest marked “Bomb Squad.”
Residents of the complex who lived directly across from and above the apartment in question reported hearing a loud pop from that apartment, Unit 102, prior to the smell of noxious smoke several minutes later. Tenant Monica Wylie said she lived directly across from Unit 102 and recalled that some time after the pop, her own apartment fire alarm went off, then the whole building alarm, and then she and other residents evacuated to the grassy front yard. Firetrucks were already pulling up as they exited the building, said Wylie.
Hicks, who lives directly above Wylie on the second floor, said her cat bolted under the bed at the loud pop, and not long afterwards, she smelled something like burning rubber. Hicks recalled that she alerted Wylie to the smoke over the phone before grabbing her inhaler and using her cell phone flashlight to navigate the stairs to the exit through the thick smoke from below.
Wylie said she knew the three residents who lived in Unit 102, but that a fourth man also frequently came and went from the apartment. “I heard him in there moving around before [the fire] happened, and he sounded upset,” she said, though she assumed he had left and that no one was in the apartment at the time of the fire. She said she also heard the pop but didn’t know what to make of it.
“I hope it’s nothing bad,” said Hicks, referring again to the yellow caution tape. She noted that the park behind the apartments across the street — Dietz Park — had been going downhill lately, and she no longer brings her granddaughter there. “It’s unsettling,” she said, both of the park and the fire.
This story was updated on May 4 and will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.