Dear PoP – Pics from fire on Irving Street (west of 14th) in Columbia Heights and same location last night – fireworks until 4:00 AM

ch1, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

I know you are going to be swamped with pics of today’s fire in CH. I figured I would give you a couple – since the fire happened literally below our balcony at Highland Park — we may be able to give a slightly different view of the aftermath…

We evacuated before taking pics from above of the fire in full bloom. But attached — you will see pics of the smoke from the street, as well as the aftermath of the burned up HVAC unit (which I am VERY hopeful that they will remove as it is now even more of a complete eyesore…)

I’m also attaching a couple of pictures of the SAME lot from last night — where — a group of appx. 25 folks was shooting fireworks off until about 3:30 a.m. Between fits of fireworks, they also engaged in boxing matches — taking turns beating the shit out of each other. It was quite the sight.

Despite calling 911 three times over the course of 3 hours — I only saw a trooper roll up after the third call. Quite ridiculous.

Needless to say– there were additional fireworks going off in the same lot throughout this afternoon – and I would not be surprised if a stray one is what caused the fire…

in my opinion — Someone needs to do something to either clean up this area or patrol it more frequently. (the lot in question is behind the highland park and homeless shelter buildings — aka – the alley that runs parallel and between Irving and Columbia;

there is A LOT of loitering there throughout the day (and — even into the evening) with some ridiculous behavior being exhibited.”

Yikes. Thanks to all the readers that sent photos of the fire. A few folks have speculated that fireworks could be the cause. More photos after the jump.





30 Comment

  • That last picture gave me the chills. I’m assuming that is the picture of the group that were lighting fireworks and beating each other up. I know this sounds naive but I can’t believe it took three calls to the cops until someone showed up.

  • I’m not surprised at all. On such a holiday, I’m sure the police were overwhelmed with drunken disorderly calls and other mayhem. I’ve had occasion to witness numerous DC MPD responses on normal non-holiday days, and their responses are never prompt.

  • This fireworks thing is getting to the point where there may need to be a ban. I heard mini explosions in my neighborhood. That goes to show you that it is not just illegal behavior that makes some people bad neighbors.

  • PoP,
    No reporting of a good ole killing in Park Morton? The Post has a write up on it.

    The first shooting happened in the 800 block of 50th Place NE. Police arrived about 9:15 p.m. and found Malik Kareem Logan, 23, with multiple gunshot wounds. Logan, of the 4200 block of Sixth Street SE, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

    About 12:15 a.m. yesterday, police rushed to the 600 block of Morton Street NW to investigate another shooting. There they found Dewayne Coles, 20, who was dead at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds.

  • This whole thing is crushingly sad.

  • @Nate: Almost all fireworks are already illegal. (except sparklers and those stupid black snake things)

  • A fireworks ban would work about as well as our gun ban did for 20+ years. I heard MPD confiscated over $13K worth of fireworks…just the tip of the iceberg by the sounds of things last night.

    That said – they don’t really bother me all that much, but I don’t have kids or need to get to sleep at any particular time of night. I can see how it bothers some folks though.

    A full-on street brawl though? That’s a ‘priority’ call and MPD should be sending officers lights’n’sirens. My guess is the dispatchers screwed up the call and just told the police it was a bunch of kids being disorderly. The dispatchers and call-takers here are the BIG weak link in our police service with respect to slow response times.

  • Our local neighborhood fireworks show was still going on this morning when I left for work, they’ve taken short breaks for a few hours since the 4th, but it’s pretty much been going on continually since Thursday. These folks must have bought at least $1,000 worth of fireworks.

  • I had the opportunity to drive in 50 and 295 last night during the height of the neighborhood fireworks bonanza. There are simply too many fireworks parties going on for the city cops to handle the situation. Please don’t rag on the cops for driving through and not stopping. They are literally on a triage system of only responding to life or death situations. The problem is not with the cops, it’s with your ANC and City Council leaders. There is no political backbone for enforcing the ban. The cops aren’t going to be put themselves in the middle of a political firestorm (damned if they do, damned if they don’t). There are simply too many city residents who enjoy blowing stuff up.

  • It is a problem of enforcement, as others mentioned. The laws on the books are sufficient:,a,3,q,623143.asp. But there is a culture of non-enforcement on the fireworks issue. If DC ever wants to control the situation they need to make enforcement somewhat of a priority. Its not like most of the fireworks displays are hidden…most are in the open – in front lawns, open alleys, or even in the middle of the street. People know that nothing will happen to them for blatantly breaking the law, so why acquiesce? I wouldn’t.

    I have been in other cities during the 4th and it was nothing like it is here.

  • To the person who submitted the pictures/write-up…

    I also live in Highland Park. It was very scary for me because I live on the 2nd floor, RIGHT in front of those sheds. I heard yelling, and was actually going to ignore it because it’s so typical, but looked out the door and saw nothing but black smoke. Then I looked down and saw the shed and fence on fire. I have a feeling though that it was not fireworks. I’m constantly seeing drug use and other wonderful illegal activity. They use cardboard and other wood and build a little roof over the crawlspace between the fence and those sheds… All of that was burned yesterday, and when I looked out this morning, someone had wood back up, despite the burned out fence.

    I have actually reported the issues with the vacant lot to management. The only thing I have gotten from them was yesterday finding out that they didn’t want to have the sheds taken down because they were afraid of “retaliation,” but it seems now they HAVE to take them down. I’m hoping that the sheds, AND fence, AND shrubbery are all removed and it is made into an extension of the parking lot, or something even more useful. I have been “too busy” to write to Jim Graham and other various people (though we do call 911 often), but I am going to make it a priority now.

    We also saw the kids with the fireworks. I went to bed, but my boyfriend told me about the fight. He said that like 30 kids were out there and they were screaming to “hit him in the face.” I also heard them make a comment about getting their “12 gauge.”

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one witnessing this stuff and trying to bring attention to it. If you’d like to try to get a group together to hopefully deal with this stuff, let me know! I’m in apartment 235 and I’ve had quite enough, after only 2 months!

    And all of this wasn’t just because of fireworks and the fourth of july. This stuff is CONSTANTLY going on just behind Irving/14th. It’s appalling and most of it is hazardous, obviously.

  • I also live in the building, and find this event and the accounts of it pretty frightening. A friend of ours got beat up while walking on Irving in front of the homeless shelter trailers a few months ago. The alley behind the shelters is totally sketchy.

    I am also interested in getting together to discuss anyone’s issues/concerns.

  • if you don’t like a weekend of “bang kaboom,” do like many people do and head out of town. fwiw, I think there were far fewer this year than last. you overestimate the capacity of the police if you think they can stop them.

  • One person commented:
    “These folks must have bought at least $1,000 worth of fireworks.”
    And another commented:
    “It is a problem of enforcement, as others mentioned. ”

    Assuming it is kids with the fireworks, then would not this be an issue of improper parenting? Kids could not reasonably afford that amount of fireworks. Sanctioning your child to break the law by paying for the fireworks gets him started down the wrong path.

    By the sounds in my hood, I did not even know that fireworks were banned.

  • I live in the building as well, and this was not a case of “bang kaboom”. This was people aiming fireworks at each other and at the cars parked in the alley in order to cause destruction. Then it became a Fight Club – with girls fighting just as viciously as the guys. I think we all expect (and even enjoy) a bunch of fireworks on Fourth of July, but sadly, this was something else.

    As for the fire, at least this happened during the day, not when everyone in the buildings that surround the alley was sleeping. Sorry, Anonymous 10:22. That must have been scary. It was really going up in flames quickly for a minute there.

  • agreed… people go back there because they know how hidden they will be. it wasn’t just a one-time, let’s have some fun with fireworks deal.

    again, i’m in apartment 235. feel free to stop by, or write me a note if i’m not there. i’ll let my boyfriend know that people might come by. we can get together and come up with some plans for getting people involved. put up a letter in that new billboard in the mailroom too.

  • I watched the official fireworks on the Mall from Adams Morgan and then travelled home to Columbia Heights/Petworth the night of the 4th. I saw and heard explosions in CH/Petworth that were only slightly smaller versions of what was in the official fireworks program on the Mall. People must have it wrong – It must be the sparklers that are banned in DC because those are the only kinds of fireworks that I did not see or hear that night.
    To be honest, I kind of enjoy the neighborhood spectacle. I spent the evening on my ront porch with a bottle of wine watching the various fireworks displays and praying that my house didn’t catch on fire from a stray spark.
    It’s hard to blame the police. There was no way they could begin to cover every place where fireworks were being set off.

  • That alley is awful. There was a homeless encampment there back in ’07. We looked at a condo on Columbia Road that backed up to that lot and one look out there told us that this was a problem that couldn’t be lived with. That whole part of Columbia Heights is a disaster waiting to happen. If thugs don’t burn your building down you’ll get shot in the crossfire at the Metro.

  • Nate, why do you think it’s kids buying the fireworks? In my neighborhood it’s the childless adult men living with grandma who spend the $500 reliving their youth. But then again I wonder if the teenagers aren’t walking over to 14th and Irving.

    I think we’re due for some posters or flyers going up reminding people that the neighborhood has changed and we call 911 now. If anyone wants to put together a nice, friendly poster that we can feel proud to staple to telephone poles, please send it to POP.

  • Wow, gentrifiers complaining about the neighborhood needing to be “cleaned” up once they move in. Talk about entitlement.

  • if that’s serious, that’s ridiculous… i moved here from cleveland and had to find a place to live really quickly. i’m not even “well-to-do.” i was trying to move from a place where my apartment got broken into constantly, but apparently i didn’t do enough homework (lack of time).

    i just don’t need drug dealing and drug doing right in my backyard, along with careless/ignorant/disrespective behavior.

    again, illegal/violent/hazardous activity shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere. enough with this gentrification BS. the real problem is people turning their heads to the issues.

  • Mark, gentrifiers have a right to complain and reject law breaking behavior, that is not an entitlement, but a necessary responsiblity of society. If you think neighborhood old timers are against such complaints, think again. Most are just too tired of dealing with idiots.

  • Mark, that’s totally inane. I’ve lived in CH for 7 years, DC for 13, and have just as much right to clean streets and law and order and others might claim to have the right to make a lot of noise and have the police ingore illegal quality-of-life issues. This morning, I picked up numbers of expended shells, plastic nose cones, those red sticks, and other debris from fireworks being set off across the street from my place. A small bush was set on fire, and a general atmosphere of drunken anarchy prevailed on the 4th. It makes me hope for a driving rain next year. And no, I don’t want to move to the suburbs or have it be exactly like the suburbs here – just a bare minimum of law and order please.

  • Mr. T: Sorry about the bush. I’ll act better next year.

  • LOL, I can only imagine ya’ll typing hard over the internets.

  • Sometimes when I read posts that equate city living to putting up with crime, I wonder if these posters have ever been to another city?

  • Mark can’t even spell “y’all” so whatever.

  • as some one stated i love the crazy anarchy of the fourth too

  • so it sounds like they all pooled together their subsistence checks and ponied up for some fireworks. let’s see…buy food, or buy fireworks.

  • Last night in Truxton Circle fireworks were still going off like crazy. So annoying on a Tuesday night!

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