Two dead, 34 injured in Long Branch explosion and fire, more missing

IMAGE: From the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Spokesman Pete Piringer Twitter feed.

AUG 11—County and news sources report a large explosion and fire in the Silver Spring Long Branch neighborhood. Montgomery County reported 2 fatalities at a late morning news conference.

The bodies were discovered in the debris during a search and rescue operation for five to seven missing persons, according to a Montgomery County report.

34 persons, including 3 firefighters were transported to hospital with injuries.

Video curtesy The Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department.

The explosion at the Flower-Branch apartment complex in the 8600 block of Piney Branch Road shook the neighborhood just before midnight, Weds. Aug. 10. The complex consists of 26 four-story multi-unit buildings arranged in groups of two or three buildings.

The affected building is in the first cluster of buildings on Arliss Street from the corner of Piney Branch. The apartment complex is bounded by Arliss Street on the west, Long Branch Library to the north, Piney Branch Road to the south and the Long Branch Community Center to the east.

Video curtesy The Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department.

Over 160 firefighters responded to the resulting three alarm fire. Firefighters rescued occupants trapped on the building’s second and third floor. The county reports that at a news briefing Thursday morning, Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said between five to seven residents are unaccounted for. He said dogs are assisting the search for people who may be trapped under debris.

Over two dozen people were injured and transported to the hospital, including some firefighters, according to initial reports. A late-morning press county press conference Thursday Aug. 11 put the total number of injuries at 34.

Photos and videos of the scene show debris from the explosion covering the street and vehicles and in the surrounding trees.

NBC 4 news coverage says three firefighters were injured. NBC 4 quotes Goldstein saying “People were dropping children and jumping out of other windows,” to get out of the building as quickly as possible.

NBC 4 news reports apartment resident Adrian Boya saying, ‘I’ve been smelling gas for weeks. I called 911, they came and told us it smelled like incense.”

An official cause of the fire has not been released. Washington Gas crews have shut off gas to the area. Power lines were also affected.

The Red Cross says about 100 people have been displaced, most of them Spanish speakers. The Red Cross and the County’s Health and Human Services have set up a shelter and support center at the Long Branch Recreation Center.

The county says they will working with emergency officials, non-profits, civic organizations and the faith and business community for a coordinated response. Tangible ways to assist victims will be announced. To make a financial or goods donation now, see info below.

The Red Cross says people can check on someone or get information by calling 311.

Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker, interviewed on NBC 4 this morning, said he heard the “deep boom” of the explosion, about a mile from his home. He drove to the scene and said he saw flames higher than the four-story building. Hucker said an emergency shelter has been sent up at the Long Brach Community Center for displaced residents.

Piney Branch Avenue is closed between University and Flower Avenues.

To assist now:

On-line financial donation* (Easiest – and preferred!)
[1] Go to:
[2] Click on “Give Direct” (on right side of your screen)
[3] Input amount and credit card number
*Indicate LONG BRANCH FIRE in the ‘comment’ box:

Mail (via check*) a financial donation to:
Montgomery Housing Partnership
(Attn: Long Branch Fire)
12200 Tech Road, Suite 250
Silver Spring, MD 20904
*Write LONG BRANCH FIRE in check memo

Goods: toiletries, canned/boxed food, clothing.
CASA Welcome Center
734 University Blvd East
(Off University Blvd, just south of Piney Branch)

Also stay in contact with your networks (civic organizations, non-profits, and others) for further information and opportunities to help.