House Fire in Columbia Heights

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A reader reports:

“I awoke about 7:50 am to the sounds of yelling outside on the street. I look out the window and see this across the street in the 1400 block of Meridian Place NW in Columbia Heights. No people seem to be hurt.”

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9 Comment

  • Oh damn, these were my neighbors when I lived in Columbia Heights… Hope everyone is okay.

  • No injuries. The fire likely started in the basement stairs behind 1428, which has been abandoned and stuffed full of junk for years, used by squatters and friends of the former residents to turn tricks for drugs. Neighbors have reported this activity to MPD for years, and reported the house conditions to DCRA for years, of course to absolutely no avail because this is the D of C. A prostitute regularly using this space is well known to the block, and she was even spotted just now returning to the property while the fire scene is still active.

    If you own or rent a rowhouse in this city, you are likely connected by wooden beams that can spread a fire in a few seconds, and therefore your lives are also completely exposed to your neighbors’ and this city’s total negligence and dysfunction.

    • I would be very surprised if the fire started in the basement. From walking by a few times (I live on the street), the majority of the damage appeared to be to the upper levels. Looking in the open doors, the main level still looked furnished and decorated – no apparent smoke or fire damage.

  • First, glad no one is hurt. But this is a very interesting photo. You can see the smoke also coming out of the mansard roof of one of the neighbors (right) and not the other (left). That is one of the issues with these houses. Every other house has a gap between the rooflines on the interior party wall of that mansard roof. So from this picture you can tell that those two houses have the gap. And the party wall is solid between the house on the left and the burning house in that attic space. Just an interesting detail with the construction of these wardman rowhomes.

    • west_egg

      So are you saying the party wall doesn’t extend all the way to the roof between every other rowhome?

      • Fireman is right, on most of the Wardmans the party wall doesn’t extend all the way up on one side of the pitched portion of the roof at the front of the house. There is a triangular opening between the two that is pretty big, big enough to walk through. In doing renovations to my house I closed this up with rock wool and 2 layers of 5/8th drywall. It is just the way they were built back then, but it definitely results in a pretty easy path between house for smoke and fire to follow

        • west_egg

          Wow. I’m guessing a lot of homeowners are unaware of this. If I owned one of these (wistful sigh) I’d look into having it remedied.

    • I live in one of these houses and happened to be crawling in the attic yesterday to get out christmas stuff. We’re definitely connected through to the neighbors with wooden joists poking through the party brick. These 18 original houses were built in sets of 3, and at every third one there is a step-up in grade but no “gap.” The fire looks like it jumped at the rear bay windows anyway, regardless of the roof.

  • No injuries. The fire likely started in the basement stairs behind 1428, which has been abandoned and stuffed full of junk for years, used by squatters and friends of the former residents to turn tricks for drugs. Numerous neighbors have reported this activity to MPD for years, and reported the house conditions to DCRA for years, of course to absolutely no avail because this is the D of C. A prostitute regularly using this space is well known to neighbors, and she was even spotted just now returning to the property while the fire scene is still active.

    This serves as a reminder that if you own or rent a rowhouse, you are likely connected by wooden beams that can spread a fire in a few seconds, and therefore are also totally exposed to your neighbors’ and this city’s total negligence and dysfunction.

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