Maryland apartment fire damage hampers investigation

Smoldering heat and the danger of collapse are hampering recovery efforts after the massive apartment fire that killed at least two people this week in a Maryland suburb of Washington, fire officials said Friday.

Fire investigators are no closer to finding the cause of the explosion that caused the fire Wednesday night. At least 110 people have been displaced.

Two bodies have been found in the ruins of the building in Silver Spring, said Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill — and he said he expects to find more.

“A number of people are still within the remains of the building,” he said. Police have accounted for 110 residents, but are not saying how many are still missing.

The condition of the two bodies found so far was so poor that officials haven’t been able to identify them, Hamill said.

Thirty-one residents and three firefighters were transferred to local hospitals with non life-threatening injuries, officials said. The firefighters had minor injuries and were treated and released.

Fire officials say the building is a collapse hazard and they are trying to make the structure safe.

The fire at the four-story Flower Branch Apartments complex happened shortly before midnight Wednesday, officials said.

About 150 firefighters rushed to the scene, where several residents had to be rescued from the upper floors. Other residents dropped children out of windows and then jumped to safety, Montgomery Fire Chief Scott Goldstein told CNN affiliate WJLA.

Ten-year-old Madelyn Fuentes had to leave her apartment with her family around 2 a.m. Thursday to go to a shelter.

“I got so scared. There were, like, people jumping out the window, like screaming for help and kids screaming because a lot of kids were scared,” she told WJLA.

Other witnesses told the CNN affiliate they heard a loud “boom” and felt their homes shake. Firefighters at a station about six miles away told WJLA that they also felt an explosion.

Video from early Thursday shows one building engulfed in flames. The blast blew a gaping hole in parts of the building.

Photos taken at the scene later Thursday show shattered glass, bricks, wood and other debris scattered across streets, and clothes and other items hanging from trees.

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