Days after a powerful, fast-moving blaze laid waste to the Arthur Capper Senior Apartments in Southeast, displacing more than 100 of elderly residents and damaging all but one of 162 units, questions remain as to both the building’s structural durability and the response time for back-to-back calls for assistance.
With the fire now contained, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has called for an investigation, already directing city officials to provide sorely-needed housing, food and mental health services — information she shared during an afternoon press conference on Friday, Sept. 21 held just a few feet away from the now-cordoned, vacated facility.
“The majority of the residents are using temporary motels and we’re looking for full-time affordable options,” Bowser said in reference to the 102 people given hotel accommodations and another dozen placed in senior homes.
But the real shocker and even more amazing than could be imagined — a news report confirmed on Monday, Sept. 24 provided details behind the amazing discovery of a 74-year-old male resident found sitting on a couch in his second-floor apartment — with the unit believed to have been unscathed by last week’s blaze. Bowser and other officials returned to the apartments to make the official announcement on Monday.
A crew hired by the building’s owner to examine the ruins replied to the elder’s cries for help. He has since been taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. An investigation has been initiated to determine how firefighters missed the senior during their search for residents in the day of the fire. on Wednesday.
During the press conference last Friday, Bowser stood with officials from the Executive Office of the Mayor and D.C. Emergency Medical Services (DCEMS) along with D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) at the intersection of 5th and K Streets in Southeast, noting that individuals living in 132 the units have already signed up for housing support.
“[These senior citizens are] eligible for a voucher for location in a housing unit as all of the residents are subsidized through public housing.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 19 during the height of rush hour, a dispatcher in the DC Office of Uni ed Communications in Southeast received a call for help.
Shortly after, a dozen units, including three engines, a ladder truck and a chief totaling nearly 20 personnel were called to the scene, according to a DCEMS public information officer. As the first caravan made its way to the apartments, additional units including another ladder truck, rescue squad and battalion chief were dispatched to the scene.
In her report, Bowser said a dozen people had to be transported to the hospital. Fortunately, none sustained life-threatening injuries. In addition, she said that due to the sudden increase in the number of calls for assistance, the DC Department of Human Services in Northeast has expanded its load for case management services, effective last Wednesday while the DC Office on Aging in Northeast has tackled the need for meals.
Meanwhile, an alert has been sent to home care agencies requesting information related to their emergency response plans and policies, temporarily lifting certain restrictions to meet recently-identified medical needs. The Red Cross has also provided services for the victims of the fire, Bowser noted.
Officials have confirmed that while the building itself has been deemed intact, an indeterminate number of floors have become unstable.
The Capitol Hill Community Foundation, in partnership with the Van Ness Elementary Parent Teacher Organization in Southeast and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Meredith Fascett (6D07), has created the Arthur Capper Senior Recovery Fund.