Fire in Barry Farm sends five to hospital

One person was killed and four others — two of them small children — were taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries after a fire early Saturday in Southeast D.C.

Firefighters rescued the children — a small boy and a baby — and an older woman from the apartment on Stevens Road SE. They rushed them, a woman who jumped from the building and a neighbor who tried to help to the hospital, all with life-threatening injuries, according to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Timothy Wilson. One of them was declared dead.

A 58-year-old woman, a 25-year-old woman and a 4-year-old boy were listed on the lease of the apartment. Neighbors said a grandmother, mother and son lived there.

Dorothy Lewis was asleep on her couch about 7 a.m. when she heard someone shouting, “Help! Help! Fire!” She ran outside and saw one of her next-door neighbors in Barry Farm jump out of an upstairs window and land hard on the ground.

“She was shouting, ‘My son, my son!’ and ‘My mom!’ ” said Kimberly Oliphant, 44, who lives in the apartment just across a narrow yard. As sirens sounded in the distance, a man ran from a nearby apartment and tried to kick down the door and enter. But thick black smoke shot out and he staggered back just as firefighters came running down the walkway.

Oliphant said she saw firefighters bring someone down from upstairs on a ladder.

The woman who jumped from the window was trying to get away from the fire, which was burning on both floors of the building, but stumbled and fell in another yard. Lewis grabbed clothes for her and held her hand for a moment. But smoke was coming off of her and her skin was peeling away, Lewis said. “She was saying, ‘Please help me, Miss Lewis. My baby!’ ”

As a steady rain fell later Saturday morning, neighbors watched as investigators from the joint arson task force combed through the blackened apartment. A charred pile of rubble lay in front of the living-room window, and the cream stucco front of the building was blackened. Two women stood in the drizzle and prayed for the family. Red Cross volunteers helped neighbors, like Lewis, who were displaced by the fire.

The family had not lived in the apartment very long, Oliphant said as her children leaned out of an upstairs window staring at the burned stucture. “But they were here at Christmas time, because their yard was all lit up and decorated. They were the only house that had all the Christmas decorations and lights” in the neighborhood, she said, and she used to often sit and admire how pretty it looked.

Celinda Anderson, 33, leaned on a friend’s arm and wiped away tears as she looked at the sooty pile of twisted metal in front of the home. The younger woman who had lived there was like a sister to her, she said, someone with a big smile who adored her little son. And the young woman’s mother, Anderson’s godmother, was like a mama to everyone, Anderson said. “She was really loving. She touched a lot of people.”

They would sit and talk for hours, Anderson said. “She always gave me good advice. She would make a rainy day seem like a sunny day.”

Susan Svrluga is a Virginia rover for the Washington Post, covering anything and everything that’s happening in the Commonwealth.
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