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05 March 2024

Man, 74, found alive after 5 days inside fire-gutted complex

Photo: AP


Engineers inspecting the wreckage of a public housing complex gutted by fire five days ago found a 74-year-old tenant inside, alive and well, on Monday.

The discovery of the elderly survivor adds an improbable postscript to the fire that struck the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex in southeast Washington last Wednesday. The fire started near the top of the building around 3 p.m., and a large section of the roof collapsed about three hours later.

Firefighters, assisted by a group of Marines from a nearby barracks, combed the burning building to evacuate all tenants — some of whom were too infirm to walk and had to be carried out. A handful of tenants were hospitalized with minor injuries, but no serious casualties were reported.

On Monday, a team of engineers was examining the damaged building to assess its structural integrity when they heard the man shouting. They pried open his jammed apartment door and found him calmly sitting in a chair, said Doug Buchanan, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C., Fire Department.

The man appeared to be uninjured and was hospitalized for observation.

Buchanan said it’s unclear how the tenant was missed when firefighters and Marines searched through the burning building.

“We were under the impression that we had either laid eyes on every apartment or banged on the doors of every apartment,” he said. “Clearly there will be an after-action meeting to assess things.”