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Update, 2:00 p.m.:
Forty-four Arthur Capper residents stayed at King Greenleaf Recreation Center last night, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services tells City Paper. Of those, seven residents were transported to the hospital, while five others “with vulnerabilities” were immediately transported to hotels. The Department of Health dispatched a medical team to King Greenleaf to assist tenants.
At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, officials began transporting the 32 residents remaining in Greenleaf to hotels in D.C. Though many other Arthur Capper residents are staying with family, DHS is offering those tenants a hotel accommodation if they choose. Additionally, the DHS spokesperson says, the department is matching Arthur Capper residents with case managers who will oversee their housing placements long-term.
DHS is also asking that residents who left Arthur Capper and did not check in to King Greenleaf to do so now. “We want to make sure everyone is aware of available services,” the spokesperson says.
Original post:A fire blazed through two floors of a seniors-only affordable housing complex in Southeast D.C. Wednesday afternoon, displacing dozens of residents of the 162-unit building and effectively rendering them homeless. “We believe everyone has gotten out of the building,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at an 11 p.m. press conference Wednesday night. “All tenants have been accounted for.”
At 3:29 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, DC Fire and EMS received reports of smoke at the building, eventually dispatching roughly 100 firefighters for the three-alarm fire at 900 5th Street SE. Around 100 U.S. Marines stationed nearby also responded to the scene, per DC Fire Chief Gregory Dean. As of the press conference Wednesday evening, FEMS was still trying to extinguish the fire.
Early videos taken by DC Fire and NBC Washington showed firefighters walking seniors down ladders and rushing to the building with wheelchairs. Reports published Wednesday afternoon also suggest that fire alarms and sprinklers did not activate during the blaze. In one particularly harrowing account, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen describes speaking with tenants of the building by phone, urging them to leave the building. Some resisted, he said, because they did not hear the fire alarms.
The building, Arthur Capper Senior Center, was redeveloped in 2007 as part of an ambitious federal neighborhood revitalization project known as HOPE VI. Of its 162 units,161 were occupied at the time of the fire.
Arthur Capper is listed as a property within the portfolio of the D.C. Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency, but it is independently operated by Edgewood Management. “These residents are considered public housing residents,” Bowser said during Wednesday night’s conference.
The president of Urban Atlantic, the company responsible for redeveloping the Capper/Carrollsburg site for HOPE VI, told Fox 5’s Evan Lambert that the property passed an inspection “with flying colors” in April, and that fire alarms are tested annually. Officials have not yet released the cause of the fire.
A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services tells City Paper that the city opened King Greenleaf Recreation Center on Wednesday night for residents of the building. Eighty-seven Arthur Capper residents were there as of 11 p.m. The American Red Cross is also helping coordinate local relief efforts for displaced residents.
“Our plan is to make sure these residents are cared for,” said Christopher Rodriguez, director of D.C.’s homeland security office, during Wednesday night’s press conference, “and also that they enter into temporary housing as quickly as possible.”
We will continue to update this post.