WASHINGTON - There are many questions that remain after a four-story senior housing complex caught fire Wednesday in Southeast D.C. Now, massive efforts are being made to make sure all of the displaced residents have a place to stay.
Investigators said the building is so damaged that we may never know what caused the fire at the Arthur Capper Senior Building, which is used for public housing for senior citizens.
What is known is the flames broke out between the top floor and the roof. The heat and smoke were initially above the 160 apartment units in the building and officials said that is why the smoke detectors and sprinklers didn't go off.
However, it is still unknown why the fire alarm didn't sound after it was pulled. The city is working with the private owners of the building to figure that out.
There have also been some questions about a slight delay with the dispatchers sending an escalated response to the scene.
The original 911 dispatch call for smoke at the Arthur Capper Senior Building included the address of building. Sources within the fire department told FOX 5 that should have immediately flagged a large response known as a box alarm. But only three engines and a ladder truck were initially sent. The response was upgraded two minutes later.
It's not much time, but the president of the D.C. Firefighters’ Union explained that in this situation – “Seconds count and if it took minutes, it absolutely could have had a significant negative impact on the way that scene turned out.”
A spokesperson for D.C.’s Office of Unified Communications, which runs 911 services for the city, acknowledged the "mishap." However, D.C. Fire and EMS later said there was no mistake and that they are now letting crews in the field play a larger role in determining whether additional response is needed.
All agree that the United States Marines who came running to help from their nearby barracks are heroes. More than 100 Marines rushed over when the fire broke out. About a dozen of them headed right into the burning building and carried out disabled residents. It was nothing short of a miracle that only eight people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
“These are neighbors. We're Marines. It’s what we do,” said a Marine who responded to the scene of the fire. “When times get tough, we knew that we had to help these people out.”
One day later, the focus has been making sure each of the 120 residents in need has a place to stay along with adequate accommodations. Clarice Hughes said there have been some snags.
“Right now, there is a scramble in terms of the mix-up with the names of where people are supposed to go,” she said. “Our names are not on the list, so therefore we are still sitting out here waiting. We are just over three hours right now waiting.”
We are told they had one snag when a bus filled with people arrived at the wrong hotel. Others have spent hours waiting for rooms that are equipped for their medical needs.
The D.C. Department of Human Services said in a statement, “There is staff stationed at each hotel housing residents to serve meals and coordination resources.”
The Capitol Hill Community Foundation, a registered nonprofit, has teamed up to help administer a fund started by Van Ness Parent Teacher Organization Wednesday night. One hundred percent of funds collected will be distributed directly to residents displaced by the fire. To donate, go to https://www.capitolhillcommunityfoundation.com/news/2018/9/20/donate-to-the-arthur-capper-seniors-recovery-fund