- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2003

The family of a deputy chief of the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department was forced out their home by a fire on Christmas Day.

Chief Charles Prince, his two children and his granddaughter were left without shelter when a fire that started in the basement ravaged their home in the 8400 block of New Hampshire Avenue in Hyattsville.

Chief Prince’s daughter, Lori, 34, and her daughter, Taylor, 2, were the only ones in the house when he came home and discovered the fire.

“My father had just come back from the store when he smelled the smoke,” Miss Prince said. “It was just me and Taylor home at the time, so we all got out safely.”

Mr. Prince’s son, Scott, 40, who also lives at the house, was not home.

Initial reports said the fire caused about $20,000 worth of damage, but Miss Prince said that they haven’t been given any estimate by their insurance company.

Prince George’s County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said he expects the family to be displaced for some time.

“It’s a tough situation, especially around Christmas,” Mr. Brady said.

Miss Prince said she and her daughter will be staying with Taylor’s father, while her father and brother will stay at a hotel.

The cause of the fire has not been officially determined. Reports that the fire was started by a candle left burning in a basement are false, Miss Prince said.

“We don’t even burn candles in our house. My father’s a fire chief, so you know we know better than to leave a candle [unattended]. The best guess we have is that it was electrical. Scott said he had an old lamp plugged in down there, so that might have been it. We’re pretty sure it was electrical, but it definitely wasn’t a candle.”

Despite the fire, Miss Prince said that the holidays were not completely ruined. The blaze was extinguished before it destroyed their Christmas presents and other items. “We managed to save most of Taylor’s toys,” she said.

Miss Prince said that they have received a number of offers of assistance, including from their neighbor, whose husband is also a firefighter.

“She offered us clothes, a place to stay. We’ve also been offered help from my dad’s fire department.”

Elmer Hamm, spokesman for the Takoma Park fire department, said they will do whatever possible to assist the 67-year-old chief, who has been with the department for more than 40 years.

“He knows that we’re his family and we’ll do whatever we can for him,” he said.

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