D.C. Fire and EMS responded to a blaze at the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex (900 5th St SE) shortly after 3:20 p.m. on Sept. 19. The fire was primarily in the fourth floor and roof levels of the complex.
Neighbors and about 100 U.S. Marines assisted with non-ambulatory evacuations. By 5 p.m., officials reported that all residents were safe.
However, five days later, resident Raymond Holton, 74, was discovered in his apartment by engineers assessing the structural integrity of the building. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Holton was in good spirits and was taken to the hospital for evaluation. He had no serious injuries.
Laura Zeilinger, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, said the building management mistakenly had Holton’s name on a list of residents that were accounted for after the evacuation. A representative of Edgewood Management told The Washington Post the company is relieved everyone has been accounted for and they are investigating why Holton was mistakenly accounted for during the emergency. The company has been otherwise unavailable for comment.
The fire destroyed much of the 162-unit complex and displaced 160 residents. All displaced residents are currently in short-term housing, hotels, or with family and friends. After the incident with Holton, Mayor Muriel Bowser said D.C. government will double check each resident’s temporary situation and verifying where they are staying.
Residents said the building’s fire alarms and sprinklers did not activate. According to Fox 5 News, officials reasoned that the smoke and flames were initially above the fire detection systems. However, some people who were present for the incident said the alarm failed to sound even after it was pulled.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen has announced that the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety and the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization will hold a joint roundtable session on Oct. 25 at 10 a.m. to discuss the procedural shortcomings during and after the fire.
The Capitol Hill Community Foundation has partnered with the Van Ness Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization and ANC Commissioner Meredith Fascett to create a recovery fund for displaced residents. One hundred percent of funds collected will be dispersed to displaced residents to help them rebuild their lives. Interested community members may donate at here.
Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the alarm failure. According to Fox 5 News, the building is so badly damaged that they may never know what caused the fire.