Tragedy compounded for Arlington family hit by fire

March 25

The fire in Arlington this month that left two people dead compounded a tragic story for a family with deep roots in the community.

The victims of the March 15 blaze in the historic Nauck neighborhood were identified Tuesday by authorities as Yvonne Barrie, 73, and Bobbie Nelson Goins, 77.

Goins had returned to the blazing house on South Langley Street to try to save Barrie, the fire department was told.

Along with Cheryl Johnson, a neighbor, Jacqueline Coachman, a cousin, said the house that was consumed by flames was the one in which Barrie’s son had suffered a fatal heart attack about two years ago.

Shortly after her son’s death was discovered, Barrie also suffered a heart attack, followed by a stroke, Coachman said. Subsequently, Barrie began using a wheelchair.

It was not clear Tuesday night but it appeared that her lack of mobility may have contributed to her death in the fire.

Johnson used oxygen, and on the day of the fire, witnesses reported what sounded like two explosions. The house quickly became an inferno, with flames leaping from the roof. The cause remained under investigation Tuesday.

The history of the neighborhood is intertwined with that of African American life in the Washington area. Nauck, which in the 19th century became home to recently freed slaves, is known as the oldest African American neighborhood in Arlington.

Coachman said the site of the fire has been in her family since its purchase by her great-
grandparents more than 100 years ago.

They raised vegetables there and sold them in the District, she said.

The two-story house that burned March 15 was on the site of the older structure that was for years a family centerpiece. Relatives raised in that house moved to nearby homes, creating a kind of family enclave, she said.

In recent days, Coachman said, she has begun to accept that in addition to taking lives, the fire may also have ended a family and community dynasty.

A friend had suggested that, Coachman said, and she originally rejected it. But, she said, as days passed, “I suspect she is right.”

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