Harvard Hall Fire Inquiry

Fire Engine at Watergate, originally uploaded by Vicki’s Pics.

I was contacted by the writer behind 2bars3stars who wrote about his experience in the Harvard Hall Apartment fire Sunday night. He writes in his blog:

“It’s a little after 2 a.m. E. and I are sound asleep, then startled awake. Our neighbor, a close friend, is pounding on the front door of our Adams Morgan apartment, alerting us to a fire raging down the hall.”

In an email he writes that he’d like to:

“Uncover the facts of last night’s Adams Morgan apartment fire, in which no fire alarms were heard during the fire. Harvard Hall is a huge building, 7 floors. It was unbelievable to see so many people leaving the building a half hour after us, having slept through the blaze. The building manager manages lots of old buildings in Adams Morgan and, if HH is par for the course, a catastrophe is easy to imagine. If the fire had been on the scale of the mt. pleasant apartment fire last year, and the alarms failed, lots of people could’ve died.”

There was coverage of the fire in the City Paper and the Post.

Any readers out there residents of this Harvard Hall Apartments in Adams Morgan? Did you hear any fire alarms?

8 Comment

  • I’m sadly not surprised at all…so many of my friends live in apartments throughout that area that, while paying a premium to live in A/M are about a step above a slum. I hope this building owner pays the price for not having a safe building!

  • It is always the landlord’s responsibility to provide working smoke detectors in every sleeping area, but if anyone finds their landlord unwilling to comply with this requirement, they can get their own smoke detector. They only cost a few bucks and its worth it if it means you stay alive.

    If you can’t afford one, local firehouses keep a stock of them and give them away free for anyone who stops by and asks.

  • Pretty sure DCFD would have pulled a pull station/gone door-to-door if they needed a full evacuation of the building. It’s not uncommon for firefighters to request many to ‘shelter-in-place’ if the fire is contained, there’s no extension, etc. No reason for folks to freeze their a**es off outside and clog stairways and hallways with themselves and luggage [they always do] when told to evacuate.

  • Firefighters evacuated the entire building, by going door to door yelling “fire in the building” — this is the only reason many residents knew there was a fire and they had to leave the building.

  • I live in HH too — Fire fighters did do a door-to-door evacuation but not of the whole building, as ontarioreader suggested they told some residents to stay in their apartments — I assume (but don’t know) because at that point the smoke in the hallways was so bad and they knew the fire was contained. I’m guessing (guessing!) that they may not have gone to some floors (like the basement) because they were not in danger.

    Aside from why no fire alarms went off is the question of why so much smoke spread through the building, when the fire was contained in one apartment.

    We do all have smoke detectors in our apartments, too — but at the time we evacuated, at least, there wasn’t smoke in the apartment, although there was a lot in the hallway. We have pretty solid walls and doors in this old building.

    I’m so sad and upset about the resident of the apartment where the fire was, she should be our top concern right now, I think.

  • I heard on NewsChannel8 this morning that the fire alarms in that building are not directly linked to the smoke detectors. Therefore, the alarms do not go off unless someone pulls them.

  • weird, why didn’t the firefighters just pull the alarm?

  • Ultimately it seems this was a small fire, which was relatively quickly brought under control. Though it was probably intense for people close to it, and for the injured of course, my guess is that the responding firefighters decided an evacuation was not warranted. An evac would bring possibly broken legs, hypothermia, and other problems, which they probably judged to be a worse risk than the fire. A valid question might be why a resident didn’t pull the fire alarm as soon as they saw smoke, but in such situations its hard to second guess people’s actions.

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