A fire broke out on the third floor of the Kappa Kappa Gamma townhouse Saturday afternoon, with smoke and flames visible from the ground on 23rd Street, according to eyewitness reports.
Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Gerhart confirmed the fire started in room 301 at approximately 4:40 p.m. The fire was contained to one room, no one was injured, and it was extinguished within three or four minutes, Gerhart said.
Firefighters knocked out a window to expel burning notebooks and papers from the building, which scattered across 23rd Street.
Gerhart said the cause of the fire is still unknown.
University spokeswoman Candace Smith said one student in the room where the fire was located had already left for the semester. The other student who lives there will stay with friends until repairs are made to the room.
Smith added that the remaining occupant was not in her room at the time the fire started.
“The info we have was the student was not in the unit at the time that the fire started. That’s the latest information I have,” Smith said Saturday. Later Saturday evening Smith directed all questions to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
Sophomore Alyssa Plotkin said she was on her way to the Lerner Health and Wellness Center when she saw the firetrucks on 23rd Street.
“We saw smoke coming out and the window being hacked down. They were throwing books and papers out,” Plotkin said.
Sophomore Ethan Harari said he lives in an adjacent townhouse and was forced to evacuate.
“There were flames in the window and the fire hose was blasting through it,” Harari said. “The tree was on fire too.”
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Pete Piringer said fire investigators were sent to the scene.
“The cause of the fire is still technically under investigation,” Piringer said.
He said the fire involved books and papers that caught fire, but no cause has been determined yet.
Piringer said the room was protected by a sprinkler system, but the fire was small enough so it did not trigger the sprinklers to go off.
Piringer said the damage could cost a couple thousand dollars, which includes the broken window and minimal water damage from fighting the fire.
Piringer said Sunday evening the cause of the fire had not been determined.
Priya Anand, Amy D’Onofrio and Emily Cahn contributed to this report