Terrible Fire in Dupont Row House Kills Two, Fire Fighters Also Injured


Thanks to all who tweeted and emailed about the terrible fire in Dupont early this morning.

“Massive event at 17th and Riggs NW. Lots of smoke, Eric. Hear loud chain saw. Hope everyone is okay.”

“@dcfireems working hard to put out house fire 1600 block of Riggs NW. Apparently 2 injured so far”

“Multiple fire trucks, ambulances, and police on Riggs at 16th St NW”


“2 alarm fire next my apt. last night on Riggs street, NW cores out a row house killing two. Others hurt”

From @dcfireems:

“UPDATE: 2 alarm fire. 1600blk of Riggs Pl NW. fire knocked down. 2 pts P1; 2 pts P2; 2 FFs w/minor inj. 6 pts total.”

Fox 5 reports:

“Sources tell FOX 5 two bodies pulled from the third floor were a male and a female. One person was found in the bedroom and the other in the hallway.”

Updates when more is known.

65 Comment

  • Just awful. We live around the corner and could see the flames through our alley. It was such a perfect night for windows-open sleeping, so the non-stop arrival of sirens woke us around 2:40AM. Looks like at least two houses at the end of that row were gutted. Such a nice, quiet block, too.

    • Anonynon

      What about the people who died and the fire fighters? Sorry they disturbed your perfect night and neighborhood.

      • Seriously??? I can’t believe you read that as a complaint. Everything about this is horrible and tragic, and my heart goes out to all those those impacted, including the firefighters who clearly mounted a massive and heroic response. That could have just as soon been my residence or anyone else’s. We’re all entitled to peace and safety, and I am massively grateful the first responders who risk their lives when things go wrong.

        • Despite what others have said, I’m with you, sproc, about that comment to your post being ridiculous.

      • I think you’ve read too much into it. Calm down, tiger.

  • Ally

    Thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. This is making me double check all my fire alarms in the house tonight.

  • This is right down the alley from my place. I can’t believe it, but I didn’t even hear the sirens last night. This is so so awful. I am absolutely nauseous over it.

    The windows to our basement unit don’t open. I’ve been meaning to get our landlord to do something about it, but haven’t gotten around to it. I really need to make it a priority.

    I feel so sorry for these people’s families.

  • Thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families

  • So sad to hear, sounds like the one person found in the hall was trying to get out. Just a question on safety of row houses that are turned into multiple condos. Are they required to have an outdoor fire escape for each unit? Or is whatever interior stairwell the upstairs folks are given is their only way out? That could easily be a nightmare if the fire starts in one of the lower level units.

    • Excellent point. I’m pretty sure that no fire escapes are required in such conversions. I’ve honestly never seen them added to any flips. Seems like a major safety issue.
      Unfortunately, considering the reactive-only nature of the DCRA, this probably won’t change until an entire family is killed in one of these conversions.

    • I don’t believe they are required. I live in the first floor apartment of a converted rowhouse, and the unit above mine definitely only has one escape route, the main staircase.

      • Windows are also considered an escape route, but I sure wouldn’t want to jump more than a story or so. I used to live on 17th at the other end of Riggs on the 6th floor of an 8-story condo (previously apartment) building that likewise had only one central staircase in addition to (and directly next to) the elevator. Fire was always one of my worries. I do see fire escapes on some older buildings, obviously added after the fact, so I have to wonder what the requirements are.

      • Ally

        For our upstairs bedrooms, I bought a fire escape ladder. They fit over the window and, while not super sturdy, fold out and get the job done in an emergency. Usually run around $50.

    • I thought that interior stairs had to have some measure of fireproofing and should be able to resist flame spread for x number of minutes?

      • tragic situation. i’m not familiar with fireproofing, but i’m curious about your note on interior stairs…unless the fireproofing spread to an exit door or window i’m not understanding how it would help.

      • I wonder if this varies from residential, residential above a certain number of occupants/height, and commercial. I do know for commercial office buildings that fire codes don’t want potential fuel sources like furniture in the areas that are used for egress like hallways but I think in some situations buildings that are small in occupancy or below a certain number of floors may have different requirements for things like internal stairways and external fire escapes.

    • Not sure what the code requires, but our bedroom is on the third floor of a mult-unit building and we keep an emergency escape ladder under the bed. Not that expensive, well worth the piece of mind.

      • +1. A length of climbing rope will also suffice, and it’s pretty easy to store one in each upstairs bedroom.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Should be sufficiently obvious, but make sure you have something to anchor the rope to – when you need to escape isn’t a great time to be trying to figure that part out.

          • Yes, also true. Generally everyone should have a fire escape plan, TBH.

          • Agree. The ladder is so much simpler and safer–open or bust out the window, hook the anchors over the sill. Plus, descending a rope is not easy at all for someone who’s never done it and doesn’t have much strength.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Both have pros and cons. I’m pretty strong but have well below average flexibility and not great balance. I think I’d have some difficulty getting from the interior of the house onto a ladder that starts below me and is swinging around. The easiest thing for me would probably be a good quality rope that was anchored above me, e.g., to the ceiling joists, so I could already be holding onto it when going out the window.

    • i don’t know about DC specifically, but I thought generally anything above a second floor needed some sort of second escape (either fire escape or access to a roof deck from which they can be rescued).

      • According to the 2013 DC Construction Code, multi-family buildings of 3 stories or less do not require two sets of egress stairs.

    • Not only are they not required… try getting a permit for external stairs in many row house situations.

      • clevelanddave

        I wonder if all those pop ups with four, five, six stories have alternate egresses- hey Ella, anyone home on that top floor?

    • I recommend anyone living above second floor with one point of egress (windows excluded) purchase a fire ladder.

    • This isn’t a multiple condo building. It’s a single family home with a rental apartment in the basement.

  • This is absolutely heartbreaking and my thoughts are with their family. The fire trucks, police cars, and news trucks were parked along the street and in front of the Scottish Rite Temple off 16th Street NW when I took the bus to work at 8:30am this morning.

  • This is so sad. I woke up around 2:45 this morning to the sound of all the fire engines….which lasted for a while. I figured it must have been a big fire by the number of fir engines that kept going by my building. 🙁

  • I just saw two ATF agents about half a block from the house. I am not sure if that is unusual.

  • Jesus = that’s so sad. Odd – we noticed terrible smoke and fire-y smell late last night (like 11PM) but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I wonder…
    My heart goes out to them – so tragic.

    • Possible, but unlikely. Looks like this happened much later–reports say 911 was called around 2:30AM.

    • UDPie – I wonder if you live in my neighborhood around 14th & T. I also smelled that around the same time and thought it was odd.

      • I’m within a block of where the fire occurred, but to the west, not east. Wonder what it was though!

  • RAVE: Had a lovely dinner at Masa 14 last night. We tried just about everything on the menu, and it was all great!
    RANT: The service was really slow for a Tuesday night. I talked to the manager about it but he didn’t seem to care that we had to wait almost 15 minutes for one of our orders of small plates. Not sure if we’ll be going back.
    RANT: The baby has been getting more fussy the last week or two. It is taking a toll on my sleep. Does anybody have any recommendations?

    • Of course the poster making the completely inappropriate rant/rave comment on the tragic fire death post also likes Masa 14. So perfect.

      My heart goes out to the victims and their families who, if they see this post, will forever associate their loved ones last moments with overpriced tapas and tacky decor.

      • Obviously an unintentional and innocent mistake by this rant/raver. Let it go.

      • Haha. Seriously, dude, you need to relax. Sounds like this poster had a baby and is tired, so he or she accidentally posted in the wrong section. We all make mistakes.

      • Dude, calm your tits. This was clearly an entirely accidental mispost.

        • I don’t know why “calm your tits” always makes me chuckle, but thanks. Also, is this dreary day making everyone a crabby-pants?
          One of my biggest fears living in a semi-detached 85 year old house, is fire. You just never know what’s really behind those walls (or within those of your neighbors’). We lived on Quebec Pl NW for a while and were witness to the 2008 fire, which claimed the life of our neighbor. It was utterly terrifying. Prayers to all involved today and may those who died rest in peace.

          • Yup. I used to live in a converted rowhouse pretty close to this fire. One of my upstairs neighbors was a hoarder, with piles of newspapers everywhere (we found out when I had to go into his apartment with our property manager to try to find the source of a leak). He claimed that he got rid of the newspapers and that they were just a one time thing, but I didn’t trust him. Always scared me.

  • I used to live on a third floor walk up in a house very similar to this in Dupont and always worried about how I would escape in a fire should access to the main stairwell be blocked or unavailable. I have to think I’d just risk the three story fall to get out, but this just goes to show you that you may very well not have time to even make that decision. This actually makes me think hard about how my current house is set up. I know I will be checking the batteries in the smoke detectors when I get home today and consider upgrading to make sure my smoke detectors are tied to the alarm system so if they go off they immediately alert the fire department.

    So very frightening and horrifying. My thoughts are with the poor survivors and the family of those who passed.

    • If you have an alarm system one of the options should be a smoke detector that’s connected to the system. You don’t have to do anything to your current smoke detectors. The company will send someone out to install a new detector that’s connected.

      • Yeah, that is really what I meant was to have them come out and swap out the smoke detectors for ones that are tied to the alarm system. Right now they are just basic smoke detectors that if they go off just alert anyone in the house and not much else.

        I never seemed to worry as much when I was a renter, weirdly enough. You’d think you’d worry more when you are renting and have less control over what the set up is.

  • My neighbor was briefly in the habit of locking his bike in our fire escape stairwell. We asked him not to do that. Just a reminder… it’s important to keep those pathways clear because you never know. (Sorry to be didactic).

  • I live on the third floor of a converted rowhome. I do have access to the roof. In an emergency would it be smart for me to go to my roof? I can also walk easily to the roofs of my neighbors.

    • I also live on the third floor with roof access. My plan was to go to the roof if I couldn’t get down the stairs. But reading through these comments, I think I’m going to purchase one of those emergency ladders. I had no idea they existed!

    • Roof access is definitely a good exit in a row house. The party walls between houses are three rows of brick thick, so it’s pretty unusual for first to spread down the row.

  • Sprinklers, people, are the answer to the condos issue with one staircase, the kind that come on automatically when a certain threshold (temperature?) is reached. I believe they are required in NYC. Some of the older brownstones have them in the public stairways, but I think recent code may require them in units.

    In row houses like this, a sturdy ladder to an easily openable roof hatch is usually required, too, and I think was an original feature in such buildings, at least in NY – maybe building styles were different here. Though many people, like the young or old, would have trouble climbing the ladders (to the roof, or the kind that go out of windows.) Which is why sprinklers are required in newer codes.

    Sad, very sad.

  • This is absolutely tragic. I feel so horrible for this family. I just bought two shiny new smoke alarms yesterday. This will certainly motivate me to go install them as soon as I’m home from work!
    Those fire escape ladders are also great devices – affordable, and small enough to stash behind a chair, under the bed, or anywhere else. Word of advice to people, though – TEST IT when there *isn’t* a fire. Some of them only fit over the lips of windows that are so big, etc. The time to find out that you know how to unravel it, anchor it to the window, and then to actually climb down the thing is not when the building is on fire, it’s this weekend when you have plenty of time after brunch or laundry or whatever else you have planned. It’s important to know in advance how to get screens out, how to pull out a window a/c unit, that the ladder fits in a window as wide as the one you have, etc.
    Your neighbors may look at you funny, but if you ever actually need the thing, you will not regret looking a little goofy fumbling with your emergency ladder in front of some passerby.

  • So tragic for the victims and their families 🙁 My heart goes out to them. I’ve been stressing about a potential fire ever since I moved into my current rental unit in Logan almost 4 years ago. It’s a 1st floor 1-bedroom with non-releasable iron security bars on the windows. Definitely cannot get out through the windows. The only way out is through our apartment’s front door into the main hallway. Our building was built in 1912 and our management company has made it VERY clear since we’ve lived there that they are unwilling to put in anything but the bare minimum of effort to keep the place habitable (sometimes not even that– but the rent is crazy cheap for the location so we stay!) Maybe someone here can clarify? Are quick-release security bars legally required in the District, even on old buildings? I’ve tried doing the research to clarify this online but have always come up just short of a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Maybe this isn’t the most appropriate place to ask, given the origin of the post, but this story just sent me back into stress mode about it so any input would be appreciated!

    • All residences require a means of egress in each bedroom – either a window or door of a certain size that will allow people to get out / firemen to get in. If your means of egress is your window, then the iron bars absolutely need to be able to be opened / removed in a way that is fairly obvious, and done without use of a key. I have seen exceptions made for bedrooms that are located within a few feet of another means of egress (e.g., if your bedroom door is right across a short hallway from the door to your apartment), but that was years ago, and the code has only gotten more strict. I hope this helps!

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