Since January, 2003
 Sliding from Before to After

At about 3:20 on Wednesday afternoon, a fire broke out on the roof of the Capper Seniors apartment building at 900 5th St., SE, quickly becoming a massive blaze that hours later continued to burn.
Nearby neighbors, Marines, and workers ran into the building to help get the residents out, in advance of the huge emergency response. Multiple reports from residents and neighbors say that no alarms were heard and no sprinklers went off.
Ward 6 council member Charles Allen reported that all residents are accounted for, and building residents were being looked after first at the Capper Community Center and then at King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest.
There's no word yet on how the fire started.
This video and this shot from Channel 4 show that the main dormer facing Virginia Avenue (as seen in the above photo) had collapsed within 90 minutes. Twitter was filled with images from neighborhood residents and the DC Fire Department of the blaze and the response.
This building was the first built as a result of the Capper HOPE VI program, with construction starting in early 2005 and move-ins starting in early 2007. It was the first building that I documented from start to finish, and seeing this today makes me so sad. But I am so relieved that it appears all were rescued safely.
Much more to come, I'm sure.
UPDATE: This from ANC rep Meredith Fascett gives an early look at how the displaced seniors are being looked after in these early hours. The Van Ness Elementary PTO is taking donations to distribute to fire victims, and there will be more information on how to donate necessities, meals, times, and more.
UPDATE II: And here is the 11 pm briefing at the scene from Mayor Bowser.
UPDATE III: The Capitol Hill Community Foundation, working with Meredith Fascett and the Van Ness PTO, has created the Arthur Capper Seniors Recovery Fund, where donations to help the building's residents will be most gratefully accepted.
Also, the DC Fire Department put together this video from the scene.
Comments (17)
 More About Capper Seniors/900 5th St. Home


Gamble Rogers says: (9/20/18 5:54 AM)
Wow — thanks for the update, JD. Amazing to learn that everyone got out safely. Please continue to post links for any group accepting donations to help.

Bruce says: (9/20/18 6:43 AM)
Near Southeast Community Partners worked at the scene to provide food, face masks, water and essentials for the seniors. Seniors received food, water, juice, toothbrushes, toothpaste and more as they were loaded onto buses for the trip to King Greenleaf.
We are raising funds for the seniors through our website. Many have lost everything.

Please visit link and give what you can to help our neighbors in need.
Donations are already coming in.
Many thanks to DC Fire, EMS and MPD for their swift action.

Thank you.

202_cyclist says: (9/20/18 7:35 AM)
Bruce-- thank you for the assistance you provided yesterday to both rescue and care for our neighbors affected by this fire.

As awful as this fire was (and it was terrible) I am relieved it didn't happen at 2 AM when people would be asleep and I am also relieved that there was minimal wind to prevent the fire from spreading to surrounding structures.

Bruce says: (9/20/18 7:42 AM)
Thank you. You are right. It would have been much worse at that hour.
Now we need to ensure that these nice folks have what they need for the long term.
I must admit, we are truly shaken by this. We were inside the building getting residents out with thick smoke in the halls. Many were in wheelchairs, which took time.
The marines were amazing.

Bruce says: (9/20/18 8:14 AM)
NBC4 will be promoting our efforts to raise funds for the seniors today on the 11AM news.

conngs0 says: (9/20/18 10:46 AM)
The TV footage of the Marines sprinting towards the fire is truly remarkable. Definitely grateful to have them as neighbors as well as all of the other folks who were nearby and rushing to help. I'm trying to focus on those positives rather than the seemingly obvious shortcomings of the building management company, which put so many already-vulnerable people at risk.

walt says: (9/20/18 12:11 PM)
I'll chime in to give kudos to Anne and Bruce Darconte. I was nearby yesterday, and Anne and Bruce definitely saved some lives. Anne said she was up in her loft and saw flames shooting through the roof and went running over. No alarms, no sprinklers going off, so they banged on doors. Later at the community center, Anne and Bruce were right there helping and I think they also coordinated all the sandwiches that were brought in. The residents and responders didn't have enough masks, and I had a box of HEPA masks so I came home to get them. By the time I returned, someone (I think Anne or Bruce) had gone to Harris Teeter and bought them out of Medical-type masks, which they distributed. They also brought bags of personal supplies (toothpaste, etc).
It takes major guts to run into a burning building and a lot of heart to stick around and help out afterwards. So I do want to go on record to thank Anne and Bruce for their efforts. Huge impact on the entire community. Thank you!

jdc says: (9/20/18 1:47 PM)
Some reporter at a news conference today (about that terrible stabbing of the woman in Logan Circle) asked about sprinklers/alarms. The official who answered said that the system had been checked several times over the recent years; I think April was the most recent time he mentioned. He also said that the fire was on the roof/in attic (mechanical?) and that the smoke was on the 4th floor, where alarms were going off. If I remember, he used that as an explanation for why no alarms were reportedly going off on lower levels. Only time will truly tell what went wrong, of course.

jdc says: (9/20/18 1:54 PM)
News story recounts things better than my memory can link

Bruce says: (9/20/18 4:19 PM)
Walt: I am very touched by the kind words. Many worked like a well oiled machine to help these folks. The mission is far from over. Near Southeast Community Partners is working with officials, agencies, groups and others to help ensure that the seniors get what they need going forward. Residents will not be returning to the building any time soon.
Donations are coming in but we can always use more. Until further notice, all $$ received will be directed for the seniors. That is stated on our donation page.

(JDC: Systems may have worked in April, but not yesterday when it mattered. ALL floors were filled with smoke. That's first hand).

Thanks again.

dude says: (9/20/18 11:08 PM)
This sucks for all those people. Glad people seem to be ok, at least physically.

Never been so close to such a large fire, my house smells like a camp fire.

jdc says: (9/21/18 8:23 AM)
The photo at the top of this most makes it seem like the entire attic space, and likely the fourth floor, is a total loss. Has anyone seen aerial photos post-fire?

202_cyclist says: (9/21/18 12:19 PM)
In other news, does anyone know why four A10 aircraft flew over the neighborhood around 7 PM last night? I assume they did it for the Nationals game but I didn't see any kind of Air Force night promotion last night.

NatsFan says: (9/21/18 12:48 PM)
yes. flyover was for nats game, it was US Air Force day.

202_cyclist says: (9/21/18 5:43 PM)
Several reports that Taylor Gourmet is closing all of its locations. I’ve never eaten there but this is unfortunate.


jdc says: (9/24/18 9:01 AM)
NOOOOOOO. I love Taylor Gourmet. It's my go-to :(

spiritequality says: (10/1/18 10:19 AM)
I am really concerned that a newly constructed building apparently had a total alarm system and sprinkler system failure. I really hope this is investigated and that other newly constructed buildings in the area test their sprinkler and alarm systems somehow. This kind of thing should not happen in newer buildings (or any buildings, but especially not newer ones).

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