P.T. Barnum once famously said that he didn’t care what people said about him, as long as they spelled his name right.
That adage might not be readily applicable to the $4 billion National Harbor project, which between blazing headlines of little mice spotted in some rooms and a norvirus outbreak which sickened 60 hotels guests, last Thursday it was snuffing out a real fire.
This one broke out the day before its grand opening when a pile of tar paper and roofing supplies caught fire on the top floor of the Potomac Passage, a 155-unit condominium under construction, sending acrid smoke across the 380-acre development.
From the street level, there was smoke everywhere, and as construction workers fled from the scene, there were some fears that their co-workers may have been trapped. “I don’t know who’s still up there, but they better come down,” said one helmeted worker, walking away at about 5:45 pm with his lunch box and tool kit.
About 50 Prince George’s firefighters responded to the scene and had the fire extinguished within 15 minutes. “The fire looked much worse than it really was,” said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. “No one was ever in any real danger.”
Brady said that construction workers had left the eight-story high-rise for the day when the fire started, but that two or three of them rushed back in when they saw smoke. P.G. firefighters found them on the roof and they were rushed to safety.
The fire was contained to a 12-square-foot area and caused about $5,000 in damage, he said. Response time was about five minutes, Brady said, because there are three firefighters dedicated to the National Harbor development in Oxon Hill.