Senior residents displaced after large fire at Southeast DC public housing building

A three-alarm fire at an apartment building that houses senior citizens in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Southeast D.C. has been contained, officials say.

Firefighters responded to the Arthur Capper Senior Building in the 900 block of 5th Street at around 3:29 p.m. Wednesday as heavy fire and smoke were seen coming from the top floor, attic and roof of the public housing building.

Firefighters worked to rescue and evacuate the elderly residents as the fire was burning. Video posted by D.C. Fire and EMS on Twitter showed a firefighter helping a resident down on a ladder after apparently getting out through a window at the upper level of the building.

Four people were transported to the hospital with minor, non-life-threatening injuries, fire officials say. It is believed all occupants of the building got out safely and are accounted for following searches of the building.

Neighbors are being credited by city officials with running inside the building, pulling fire alarms, knocking on doors and helping people get to safety. About 100 Marines showed up to the scene to assist the first responders.

According to D.C. Fire and EMS, the fire may have started on the roof. Due to the volume of the fire, firefighters had to make a "defensive attack" as they worked to extinguish the fire. Just before 8 p.m., officials say the fire was confined.

Around 125 firefighters responded to the scene at the height of the blaze Wednesday afternoon. D.C. Fire and EMS received help from fire personnel from Prince George's County along with members of the Navy and Marines.

D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen said the fire alarms in the building did not go off.

"My office, as soon as we found out about this, I was on the phone with one of the residents on the fourth floor. We called her. She was in the bathroom. No fire alarm going off," Allen said. "We had to tell her to leave her apartment. She walked out to a smoke-filled hallway and we stayed on the line with her until she got to the firefighters."

D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean says fire investigators will investigate why the fire alarm system was not working. The building was inspected a year ago and there were not any fire code issues.

The four-story building, which has a total of 162 units, is privately-owned, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says.

The building opened in 2007 and is managed by Edgewood Management Company based out of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

"We have a large number of seniors that we're going to have housing for them, help take care of them, deal with the trauma and make sure we get them back into safe housing as soon as possible," Councilmember Allen said.

Officials say 160 residents were displaced as a result of the fire. More than half of the displaced residents were relocated to the King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest D.C. Family members looking to find out where their loved ones are located should call 311 or 202-737-4404, officials say.

The American Red Cross also responded to the scene to provide food and water to the residents.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.