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Posted at 9:59 AM ET, 09/29/2010

Man leaps from building to escape fire

By Debbi Wilgoren


A man who jumped from the Sarbin Towers apartment building in Northwest D.C. early Wednesday morning to escape a fire is dead and 11 others have been taken to area hospitals, including a 2-year-old girl who is said to be in critical condition, fire officials said.

Authorities released no names of victims, but confirmed the death of a 38-year-old man who tried to leap to safety. Three people, including the 2-year-old, were in critical condition. Three others were taken from a makeshift emergency shelter for smoke inhalation and were in good condition, said Pete Piringer, spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Management Services.


Firefighters responded to the 3100 block of 16th Street NW in Columbia Heights. (Gerald Martineau/For Post)

The eight-story, 63-unit building in the 3100 block of 16th Street suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, but Piringer said authorities believed many of the 125 to 130 people evacuated could return to apartments on the lower levels later in the day. He said the fifth-floor, where the blaze began in a common area, was more heavily damaged along with upper levels, with a dozen or more residents facing a long-term displacement.

“The 5th floor has some pretty heavy fire and smoke damage, a little water damage, and smoke and heat damage above that,” Piringer said. “We believe we’ll be able to reoccupy the first and second floors and maybe higher floors. Certainly the 5th floor, they’ll be out longer term.”

An investigation into the fire is ongoing. The American Red Cross, D.C.Department of Health and other agencies are providing aid.

Traffic southbound at the 3100 block of 16th Street remains closed near the building, but northbound lanes have been reopened, Piringer said.

-- Spencer Hsu

D.C. building fire kills one, closes 16th St.
6:01 a.m.
One person was killed and several others were critically injured early Wednesday in an apartment building fire that shut down 16th Street NW, a major commuter artery, during the morning rush, officials said.

Firefighters were called to the blaze, in the 3100 block of 16th Street in Columbia Heights, at 3:45 a.m., said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer. They escorted dozens of people out of the eight-story building, carrying some through smoke-filled hallways or down ladders. One person jumped from an upper story and was gravely injured.

An man was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital, D.C. fire chief Dennis L. Rubin said. It was not immediately clear whether he was the person who had leapt from the building or if he had been injured in some other way.

Four other people remained hospitalized in critical condition, including a 2-year-old girl who was severely burned in the blaze.

Rubin said three people who were taken to hospitals sustained only minor injuries or were being kept for observation. About 125 residents of the building were being sheltered in a nearby community center. Rubin said two or three of them were reporting difficulty breathing and could end up being taken to the hospital as well.

Police closed 16th Street between Park and Columbia roads, and Lamont Street between 16th and 17th streets, the D.C. Department of Transportation said. Motorists and cyclists were advised to use 18th, 14th, 13th or 11th streets, or Georgia Avenue, as alternate routes, and to expect longer commuting times. Metrobuses are also being rerouted.

Rubin said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, with no early indication as to whether it may have been deliberately set. The blaze appears to have started in a hallway on the fifth floor. Apartments on that floor, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the building, sustained significant smoke, fire and water damage. Piringer said it is not yet known how many of the building's residents will be able to return to their apartments.

The apartment building probably was built in the mid-20th century, Rubin said. Like most buildings of that era, it is not equipped with a sprinkler system.

By Debbi Wilgoren  | September 29, 2010; 9:59 AM ET
Categories:  DC  
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"An man"

Posted by: Real_Sidler | September 29, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Why are the officials in the photo so overweight?

Posted by: Reader4 | September 29, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

There must be an editor at the Washington Post who know the difference between Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant (this fire is in Mt. Pleasant). Or do they all live in the suburbs?

Posted by: jhzjhz | September 29, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

16th st is the line between mt.pleasant and columbia heights in that area. I would argue it could be in both...

Posted by: albinosquirrel1 | September 29, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Really, folks? A person is dead and others are clinging to life and you take the time to comment on the specifics of location and grammar? Lovely.

Posted by: 4Logic | September 29, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I used to live almost across the street from that building, at 3033 16th. They sent me a new voter's registration card at least once a year because they constantly changed the ANC borders. I never knew if I was in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, or Columbia Heights. If I lived there and didn't know, and if the elections board didn't know, I don't expect a Washington Post reporter on a tight deadline to know.

Posted by: kejones4 | September 29, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

To Reader4: They're probably overweight because they did not have a silver spoon given to them, during their childhood and adulthood. Also, they probably do not have the opportunity to work-out when they arrive to work or during work because they probably would get fired... can't just get a loan/house/job just because... So you tend to gain weight due to stress, which you obviously are not aware of... so take your bike riding (always in the way) hey they even have lanes now for you people, when we rode bikes in the streets when it was chocolate city - jogging (oh no I should not have been mugged) at night, not paying attention self back to the burbs and keep your comments to the burb papers!!! God bless the people affected by the fire and keep them safe and their spirits high!

Posted by: 0126 | September 29, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Thank You Reader 4 for commenting to dumb dumb, worrying about somebody's weight. I mean really, get a life. The people are there doing their job, trying to save a life. It should've been you, I bet you would've been calling for him (official) to rescue you! what a moron you are.

Posted by: veholland | September 29, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Thank You Reader 4 for commenting to dumb dumb, worrying about somebody's weight. I mean really, get a life. The people are there doing their job, trying to save a life. It should've been you, I bet you would've been calling for him (official) to rescue you! what a moron you are.

Posted by: veholland | September 29, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I co-sign with "0126". A man leaps to his death and these idiots want to discuss somebody's weight?! I feel for his family and hope that whoever started this fire (if it is arson) gets burned alive at the stake. Arson is the most cowardly and hideous crime of all.

Posted by: PepperDr | September 29, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

To 0126:

Thanks for your contribution. A couple of questions.

1) Are you suggesting only poor people can get fat?

2) Unless you work at a gym, what kind of job allows you to workout while at work?

3) Are police and fire men the only positions in this city that are stressful?

4) Umh... what do bikes or bike lanes or anything in the second half of your diatribe have to do with this?

Posted by: nperazich | September 29, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

>> so take your bike riding (always in the way) hey they even have lanes now for you people,
you people, lol.

Posted by: slydell | September 29, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Thank you so much for the response to the nut who is concerned about weight...stop using the internet hide your negative ways and views...what goes around comes "how" sad go back to school and get some education.

Posted by: shadon1 | September 29, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I'd add to 0126 that they are overweight too because they eat too many carbohydrates.

Posted by: sugarstreet | September 29, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the story...Is this near the area where the cars are being set on fire?

Posted by: Redial1 | September 29, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Are there any organizations that are helping to get clothes, food, money, etc. for those who were displaced by the fire?

@Redial1, yes, it is generally the same area. It's within the 10 block radius of the car fires.

Posted by: SteveKo | September 29, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

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