WASHINGTON (ABC7) – A man died in the 3-alarm fire that broke out at a D.C. apartment building Saturday, fire officials say.
It was a chaotic and terrifying scene in Northwest DC as an inferno engulfed the building while hundreds of people were sound asleep.
Firefighters found residents jumping from windows to escape the flames as they used ladders to rescue dozens of small children and residents trapped inside the Rolling Terrace Apartments.
Peabody St. we are rescuing numerous people via ladders. Fire top floor being knocked down. Heavy smoke 3 floors. pic.twitter.com/c2FExcQHn7– DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) June 24, 2017
D.C. Fire Officials say the man’s body was found on the top floor in the room where the fire started after dogs searched the building on Sunday. Officials say that room is the only place the dogs got a hit.
“I was screaming help help,” said Jenny Gomez, who managed to escape from her third floor apartment with only her purse and pajamas.
Gomez woke up just before 3 a.m. Saturday to thick smoke. Outside her windows, a wall of flames quickly spread and engulfed her building in the 1300 block of Peabody Street in Northwest.
“When I opened that door I’ve never in my life seen smoke like that and had that smell,” Gomez said.
Keyona Gardner raced downstairs from the third floor and out the basement with her mother and five-year-old daughter, but she could hear the desperate cries for help upstairs.
“They’re standing there like we need help and we’re telling them there’s people still in there and it’s just spreading,” said Gardner, whose mother lived in the building for 37 years.
“We had people hanging out windows and we were also told when we got here a couple people from the second floor had jumped. Firefighters were able to catch them,” said Chief Gregory Dean, DC Fire and EMS.
Mayor Muriel Bowser toured the damage after the building’s roof collapsed and thanked the more than 200 first responders who rescued residents and knocked down the flames.
More than 200 people have been displaced, but they’re thankful to be alive. Many families lost everything and are now staying at a shelter set up at the Emery Recreation Center on Georgia Avenue.
The building had the roof removed, is unsafe and has significant fire and water damage, fire officials say.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve gone through in my life, and I’m just so fortunate to be here,” Gomez said.
Fire crews were aware that one person was missing on Saturday night.
One person and five firefighters were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, but they’re expected to be okay. The firefighters were released from the hospital on Sunday.
Fire was still in the walls and firefighters were still knocking down hot spots Saturday evening. Investigators have still not determined what caused the fire at this time.