Fire sparks evacuation of senior citizen apartment building in Foggy Bottom

Media Credit: Kyle Anderson | Staff Photographer

John Donnelly, a FEMS Fire Chief, said responders mostly confined the fire to a single unit on the second floor.

Updated: Nov. 15, 2022 at 3:31 p.m.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Service responders evacuated residents from a Foggy Bottom building due to a fire on the second floor of the eight-story building Tuesday morning.

FEMS responders “knocked down” a fire at 12:06 p.m. at the 700 Block of 24th Street after smoke was seen coming from the second floor of St. Mary’s Court, an elderly and disability support housing and services provider in Foggy Bottom.  John Donnelly, the chief of FEMS, said at a press briefing that FEMS responders transported at least six people to a hospital with non-life-threatening respiratory issues and officials provided Metrobuses to keep evacuated residents warm.

Donnelly said officials have not determined the cause of the fire. He said responders mostly confined the fire to a single unit on the second floor.

“There were numerous ladder rescues,” Donnelly said at the briefing. “We did ground ladders with aerial ladders, and we removed people with the bucket from the tower ladder.” 

Donnelly said he’s “hopeful” that residents will return to the building today. FEMS officials said in a tweet that they will conduct a “safety evaluation” of the building to determine when residents can reenter.

Donnelly said about 120 firefighters arrived on scene to extinguish the fire and evacuate residents, who responders evacuated using ladders due to the heavy smoke remaining in the building. Donnelly added that FEMS did not evacuate all of the residents in the 140-unit building.

James Howard, a resident of St. Mary’s Court, said he lives on the third floor right above the unit where the fire started and firefighters helped him evacuate by a ladder. He said he could feel the heat from the fire below but didn’t see any flames.

“It was so fast,” Howard said. “It was like, one minute the alarm, the next minute it was all hell.”

 

Laura Cunningham the pastor at the Western Presbyterian Church, which houses Miriam’s Kitchen, a D.C.-based service fighting homelessness said she opened the church’s doors for evacuated residents to stay while they wait to reenter the building. She said the residents that came in were “worried” and left without their medication or walkers and the fire created “extra stress” for the senior citizens in St. Mary’s Court.

Cunningham said Marcus May, the executive sous chef for Miriam’s Kitchen, committed to cooking dinner for about 100 St. Mary’s Court residents affected by the fire and will deliver the meals to residents.

“We’ve just been able to put together coffee and water and warm places to sit and talk,” Cunningham said.

GW Alerts System sent an alert at 12:54 p.m. reporting fire department activity at St. Mary’s Court on the 2300 Block of G and H streets and that 24th street between Virginia and I streets were closed to traffic.

Caitlin Kitson and Nikki Ghaemi contributed reporting. 

This post has been updated to include updates from FEMS officials on their safety evaluation of the building.

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