About a dozen volunteer firefighters from two Prince George's County fire companies swing fists and axes at each other for 10 minutes Monday night after they had extinguished a fire in a Landover garden apartment, according to neighbors who witnessed the fight.
The brawl outside 2268 Brightseat Rd. was the climax of a long rivalry between two companies -- Kentland and Chapel Oaks -- over which company was the fastest in getting to fires and the most effective in putting them out. Most members of the Kentland fire company are white and members of the Chapel Oaks fire company are black, but members of both companies said that race was not a factor in the fight.
Four of the firefighters were treated at Prince George's General Hospital and released, and two of them were suspended, fire officials said. Fire officials refused to release the names of the suspended firefighters.
Fire department officials disputed neighbors' reports that about a dozen firefighters were involved in the brawl. A press spokesman said only two volunteers were fighting and one or two others tried to break up the fight.
The two companies have been going to the same fires for years as a result of a "helping hand" agreement between them. Despite the agreement, there has always been a certain amount of rivalry between the companies, according to firefighters, but it worsened in June when the Chapel Oaks company moved to a new fire station on Sheriff Road, the road that the Kentland company often takes to go to fires. Ever since then, the two companies have had a tendency to race each other along Sheriff Road to fires in Landover.
The first brawl occurred in November when fire trucks from the two companies met at an intrsection along Sheriff Road. The light at the intersection was red, but the Kentland company dashed through the intersection anyway. That angered a volunteer from the Chapel Oaks company who later punched the wagon driver of the Kentland company, leading a Kentland volunteer to punch him, according to Ronald Milor, president of the Prince George's County Fire Fighters Association.
Monday night's rematch began when a Kentland volunteer called a Chapel Oaks volunteer a "ninny" while they were standing on Brightseat Road, after they had extinguished a fire. The Kentland volunteer, according to one friend, reportedly disagreed with the Chapel Oaks firefighter's decision to knock out the windows of the apartment to control the fire. As a result, the Kentland man got punched.
"The white dude [from Kentland] wiped himself off and went and got a big hammer or an ax or something hit the other guy in the head. Then the other buddies all jumped in. It was like a gang fight." said Faith Taylor, 21, who lived in the apartment where the fire occurred.
The brawl ended in about 10 minutes, before police arrived. Police did not make any arrests.