Allen Holds Hearing on Response to Capper Fire

Says Seniors Deserve Answers

DC FEMS fights a blaze at Arthur Capper Senior Housing, Sept 20, 2018. Photo: Twitter @DCFireEMS

On October 25, the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety and the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization will hold a joint oversight roundtable on the District’s response to the September 19, 2018 fire at the Arthur Capper Senior Apartments.

Following the three-alarm fire last Wednesday at the Arthur Capper Senior Building (900 Fifth St. SE), approximately 160 senior residents were displaced from their homes. That evening, District officials said all residents appeared to be accounted for, with only minor injuries. Five days later, a 74-year-old resident was discovered in the wreckage, trapped in his second-floor unit.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D), who is Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said that District residents deserve answers, especially the seniors displaced by the fire. The Arthur Capper Senior Building is located in Ward 6.

“What caused the fire? Why didn’t the fire alarms and sprinklers go off? What could the District, the building management, and the building owners have done differently to ensure everyone was properly accounted for?” said Allen, enumerating possible points of inquiry.

All of the seniors are now living in either a hotel in the short-term or with family while the District and the community work to meet their immediate needs and identify long-term housing solutions.

A damp family photograph lies on the pavement where it fell from Arthur Capper Senior Housing (900 Fifth St SE). More than 150 residents have been displaced, losing their homes and most everything they own. Photo: Matt Litman

“Since the fire, I’ve regularly met with the residents who were displaced,” said Allen, who spent much of the day on the site of the fire and much of the evening of the fire at Greenleaf Recreation Center, where displaced residents spent the night after the fire.

“It was a hard day and it is a miracle everyone survived,” he said. “It’s clear to me we need to ask some hard questions about what happened that day and in the following week.”

A list District agencies will be asked to testify, including the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (DC FEMS), the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Office on Aging.

The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, October 25, in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW).