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So here’s the question of the day: Do you suspend the search of a large apartment building for seniors that has had major fire and structural damage based on the word of the building’s management that all residents are accounted for or do you keep searching?
And a follow-up question: Is this really building management’s fault or responsibility or should the fire department be shouldering the blame?
A 74-year-old man has been pulled from the rubble, five days after a fire at a senior living center in Navy Yard, DC officials say.
The man was a resident of the building, and had been trapped in a second-floor apartment of the Arthur Capper Senior Building since the fire on Wednesday, officials say. His name has not yet been released.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press briefing Monday that the man was found by crews hired by the owner of the building. Inspectors say he had no way to get out. Crews say they had to use tools to pry open the apartment door, where they found the man inside.
“We got to this one door and I couldn’t open it. I have a master key, but the key wouldn’t open it but the door was jammed and so we couldn’t open it. And so we heard a voice on the inside and we said, ‘We are coming to get you,’ and the voice said ‘I am not going anywhere,’ and I had guys come out to bigger crowbars essentially and we got the door open,” said building engineer Allyn Killsheimer, who was a part of the crew that rescued the man.
The man was found disoriented and dehydrated, but crews say he was in good spirits. He allegedly wanted to walk out on his own, but the building engineer insisted on carrying him out. He was brought out in a kitchen chair.
The man, Raymond Holton, emerged without serious injuries and was evaluated at George Washington University Hospital. Engineers assessing the structural integrity of the building heard him yelling and used a crowbar to pry open the door of his second-floor apartment. They found him sitting on a couch.
“I wasn’t scared. I be here by myself anyway,” Holton said in a telephone interview from the hospital. “I thought they forgot about me. I didn’t know about no fire.”
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean blamed the building’s management company, which they said provided the city with an inaccurate report that all residents were safe. That report was a crucial factor in the decision last week by fire officials to suspend further searches of the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex after initial chaotic rescues and evacuations.
Officials said they did not want to unnecessarily send firefighters into a building deemed in danger of collapse. “The building was considered unstable, and we weren’t missing anybody,” Dean said.