Two Delta Gamma members were trapped in a burning Statesman apartment after waking to the smell of smoke early Tuesday morning in a blaze that destroyed most of their possessions.
Lieutenant Kevin Stuart, a fireman who responded to the scene, said a cigarette or other smoking material caused the fire, and the smoke detector did not sound in the 2020 F St. building.
Junior Mary Tess Driver and senior Kerry Robert called 911 after smelling the smoke at about 5 a.m.
Forty-three firemen arrived in seven fire trucks about 20 to 30 minutes after the two students made the call and a building-wide fire alarm was tripped, Robert said.
Stuart, one of the first to arrive, said the firefighters forced their way into the locked fifth floor apartment.
“We didn’t know there were any victims in there,” he said.
The firefighters found the women in a back bedroom, where Stuart said “the smoke was literally down to the floor level.”
“They basically had their faces up to the windows trying to breathe,” he said.
Robert said Driver helped her to the window to breathe and they were covered head-to-to in soot.
Robert said she and Driver went to the hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
The entire apartment was covered in soot from the fire, but as of Wednesday night no other apartments seemed to be affected, Stuart said. He said water damage sometimes results after a fire in a neighboring apartment.
Robert said the women lost all their clothes and personal belongings in the fire. She praised the fire department, GW, the Red Cross and other students for offering aid after their loss.
The Red Cross arrived Wednesday and gave Robert and Driver a voucher for Target department store, Robert said.
“They were ready to provide us with anything we needed,” Robert said.
In a residential fire, the fire department responds to the emergency and then contacts the Red Cross, said Carrie Martin, director of communications at the D.C. Red Cross headquarters.
“Red Cross volunteers show up on the scene to see what kind of immediate emergency assistance is needed,” Martin said. She said the Red Cross typically does not provide cash for the victims.
“Clients can always call back for further assistance,” Martin said.
GW is temporarily housing Robert and Driver in the Aston Hall.
“The firefighters were absolutely amazing,” Robert said. “Every single firefighter came in and asked us about our well being and complimented us on our good composure.”