At a little after 8 a.m. on November 3, 2004, Kristine Beck, an administrative assistant at the Prince George’s County Office of Law, was looking out of the fifth floor window of the County Administration Building across the government campus from the courthouse complex, when she observed smoke rising from the roof of the old part of the courthouse. Initially, Beck wondered what the workers, who were renovating that part of the courthouse, had done to cause smoke to rise from the roof of the building. Immediately, she went to the nearest desk, picked up the phone, dialed 911, and reported that there was smoke rising from the roof of the courthouse. In response to a question she replied, “No, I do not see fire.” As she hung up the receiver, she was reminded of the saying: There is no smoke without fire. Beck’s call was one of several calls received by 911 operators regarding the smoke emanating from the roof of the historic wing of the Prince George’s County Courthouse. The 911 center alerted the fire Emergency Medical Services center and it sent the alarm to Engine Company 20, which is located about one block east of the courthouse complex. Engine Company 20’s engine and truck arrived on the scene about five minutes after the first call was received. From the time that the first equipment arrived on the scene until the conflagration was knocked down, there were a total of six alarms for what was reported as the largest structural fire in Prince George’s County’s history.
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