Bowser, Fire Chief Provide Arthur Capper Update

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As the sun set Wednesday, DC FEMS continued to fight the blaze at Arthur Capper Senior Housing. Photo: Twitter @DCFireEMS

At 11 p.m. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Fire Chief Gregory Dean provided the day’s final briefing on the fire at the Arthur Capper Senior Housing complex.

DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (DC FEMS) responded to reports of fire at the building, located at 900 Fifth St. SE, shortly after 3:20 p.m. Initially a two-alarm fire, the blaze was quickly upgraded to three alarms, Douglas said.The 162-unit housing complex composed of affordable one and two bedroom units exclusively for seniors was completed in 2007 and is privately managed by Edgewood management company. Bowser said that 161 of the 162 units were occupied as of Wednesday.

Four people were sent to hospital, but there were no major injuries. All residents were contacted and accounted for. A further search of the building will be undertaken tomorrow, once the building has stabilized, Bowser said.

Dean said that between 80 and 90 residents are non-ambulatory, and evacuations were assisted by about 100 marines, members of the management team, and neighbors.

Caring About Neighbors Saves Lives

Bowser emphasized DC values and the closeness of the neighborhood, of which the Marine Barracks is a part, in expressing her gratitude to the Marines who helped in rescue efforts.

“The Chief told me that all of those hands and strong backs made a big difference to all of the residents here, who aren’t able to move as quickly as some,” she said.

Councilmember Charles Allen said he was very grateful to the Marines. “I also want to say, several of our neighbors, they went in and started banging on doors and pulling the alarms as well.

“I’m just really proud of this neighborhood, and I frankly think but for those really fast efforts, I’m not sure if everybody would have survived,” Allen said.

“So I’m really proud of the quick action by our neighbors and by the marines to help care about their neighbors, and I think that’s what saved lives today.”

87 At Greenleaf 

87 residents are displaced by the blaze are currently located at Greenleaf Recreation Center (201 N St SW). Capitol Hill steak-and-fries restaurant Medium Rare has donated 150 meals to ensure the seniors are fed, said Allen’s office. The Red Cross is providing bedding, water and toiletries for the night.

160 residents are displaced by the blaze and have lost their homes and the majority of their possessions, Allen said in a Twitter video posted after the Mayor’s update. Community members are already looking for ways to help, and he said his office would inform the community of ways to do so in the coming days.

HSEMA Director Chris Rodriguez said that the agency was working to find these residents alternative places to live as quickly as possible.

Chief Dean said that the building had no record of fire code violations and had been inspected last year. He said that the Fire Marshal’s office would be investigating reports that the fire alarm system was not working, noting that the system had battery back-up.

Dean said that sprinkler systems were working in hallways and individual units. He said it was not clear if there were sprinklers in all areas, but the investigation would examine the building and plans.

Live from 900 5th ST SE, briefing press and residents on updates regarding today’s fire.

Posted by Mayor Bowser on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How Soon We Can Rebuild

As Dean spoke at 11 p.m. firefighters were still working to extinguish the fire behind him. He said the cause would be investigated once the building was stabilized.

Bowser said that the District would be working with the DC Housing Authority as well as the building owner and management company to find alternative homes for residents, seeking vacant units in their portfolios in which they can be placed.

“I think ultimately what we want to get together to do is to see what is the status of this building, and how soon we can have a plan to rebuild it,” she said.