Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect first name for the firefighter injured in yesterday's fire. His name is Daniel McGown. This version has been corrected.

Pr. George's Firefighter Critically Injured in Blaze Being Probed as Suspicious

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 9, 2009; 11:13 AM

A Prince George's County firefighter was critically injured while battling a blaze that gutted a two-story home in Kettering early yesterday and displaced a woman and her adult sons, authorities said.

Fire investigators said they think the blaze was intentionally set, although it is not clear by whom or why, said Mark Brady, a county fire department spokesman. The tires on a car in the driveway were slashed, he said. Law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case is in its early stages, said detectives are investigating a possible link to a domestic dispute.

Daniel McGown, 21, was in the Washington Hospital Center's burn unit last night with life-threatening injuries, Brady said. McGown is the son of William McGown, deputy director of public safety communications in Prince George's and a former deputy fire chief, and the brother of Kimberly McGown Blackistone, a county firefighter and paramedic.

Two other firefighters were treated and released, Brady said.

Daniel McGown, who has worked for the fire department for four years, was among the first on the scene about 2 a.m. in the unit block of Herrington Drive, Brady said. By that time, the woman and her sons were outside, but the fire, which started in the carport, was spreading rapidly.

McGown and two others took a hose in through the front door, working their way back to the kitchen. Something, possibly a ceiling collapse, caused all three firefighters to scatter, Brady said.

"We just don't know what went wrong at this point," Brady said.

A short time later, Brady said, a commander outside heard the sound of one of the alarms attached to every firefighter's breathing apparatus. The sound meant that one of the firefighters inside had been motionless for 30 seconds. Other firefighters found McGown unconscious in the family room, his face mask out of place, Brady said.

Yesterday, more than a dozen police officials and fire investigators searched for clues that might tell them not only who set the blaze, but also what went wrong inside. Brady said family members who lived in the house told detectives they had recently been the targets of harassment; he declined to provide details.

One neighbor, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal, said he gave investigators an orange pajama top that had been left in his yard after the blaze. The top, the neighbor said, smelled of chemicals.

Neighbors and a family member identified the residents as Karen Bivins and her two sons, Timothy and Anthony Bivins. They said they heard a loud explosion just before 2 a.m. and came outside to find that Karen Bivins's white Corvette, parked in the carport, had been set on fire, and that the tires on her Toyota Camry in the driveway had been punctured.

Patti Aluise, 57, a family friend, said Karen Bivins told her that vandals had slashed the tires on her Camry twice before, but she never told police about the incidents.

Staff writer Aaron Davis and staff researcher Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.

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