On Nov. 27, 2011, Langley Park resident Amra Assing was woken up at 4 a.m. by a phone call from her sister, Lewisdale resident Merle Munroe, telling Assing that Munroe's house was on fire.
"I asked 'how much of the house was on fire?' She said 'all of it'," said Assing in an interview yesterday.
Munroe, age 62, shared the house with three other family members, her 32-year-old daughter Simone Munroe and Simone's six-year-old son Omari Noel as well as Omari's 61-year-old aunt Janet Assing-Macklin.
Assing, after receiving the news of the fire, made the short trip from her house to the 2400 block of Griffen Street in Lewisdale where Simone, Omari and Janet lived. She brought with her four winter coats, which she thought her family members would need in the cold November morning as fire and rescue personnel fought the blaze. But when she arrived on the scene, she received terrible news.
"I gathered four coats, and when I got here, they didn't need the coats," said Assing.
Simone, Omari and Janet had all suffered fatal injuries as a result of the blaze. Omari, a student at Lewisdale Elementary School at the time of the blaze, was pronounced dead that morning. Simone and Janet succumbed to their injuries the next day.
Last night, residents, family members and county officials gathered at the scene of the deadly blaze to hold a candlelight vigil for the trio which lost their lives in the fire.
"This was rough for me, learning about the family and learning that Omari wanted to be a firefighter," said Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor in an interview after the vigil. "That really touched me."
The blaze was one of 14 fatal fires in Prince George's County last year, according to Bashoor.
The fire cut short the lives of the three victims, who were all immigrants from Trinidad trying to "take a piece of the American dream," according to Assing.
Neighbors remembered the victims fondly.
"They were good people, always saying hi to you, they were great neighbors," said longtime Lewisdale resident Alex Popp. He lives across the street from the scene of the deadly fire and was the first person to call 911 to report the inferno.
After the blaze, investigators did not find any smoke detectors in the home. This prompted local fire and rescue crews to go door-to-door in the neighborhood giving out free smoke detectors and fire-safety information to area residents.
Assing, in an interview after the vigil, said that if there's a silver lining to the tragedy it would be that others might take fire safety and prevention tips to heart. Since the fire, Assing herself has invested in an escape ladder for her home and has made sure to keep fresh the batteries in her smoke detectors.