Residents displaced in fire try to adjust
By Hamil R. Harris,
Rajiv Oberoi had to retrieve medication to keep his body from rejecting the liver he received in a transplant. Another man needed the $500 he had left behind so he could pay a bill. They were among dozens of residents who pleaded Wednesday to get into their New Carrollton apartment complex a day after it was heavily damaged by fire.
Many of the 120 displaced residents of the Sutton Walk apartments were trying to find a sense of normalcy, while others were just glad to be alive.
“I need my liver transplant medication,” said Oberoi, a Long Island, N.Y., resident who is living at the complex while on temporary assignment for the IRS.
Like other residents, Oberoi was given a voucher to spend Tuesday night at a motel. But where they will spend the next few nights — and live in the future — might be up to the managers of the large garden-style apartments.
David Miskovich, chief operating officer of Ross Management Services, which manages the complex, said the fire affected 40 of 184 units. He said the company hopes that residents of 15 damaged units can return home by the weekend. The company plans to place occupants of the 25 other units into apartments under the same management.
“Our major focus is taking care of our residents,” Miskovich said. “We are working with the Red Cross to ensure that we have temporary housing for all of our residents.”
Fire officials in Prince George’s County said the blaze might have been caused by a faulty air conditioner. Miskovich said the management company had no confirmation of that.
Resident Loretta Battle, who was taking care of her 1-year-old granddaughter, described being rescued from her third-floor bedroom window.
“When I saw the smoke coming through the balcony, I went to the front door to try to get out. But at that point, the hallway was completely black,” she said. “I went to my bedroom, put a blanket at the door and a pillowcase on my grandbaby’s face.”
“The fire department put a ladder to my window,” Battle said. “People [were] saying, ‘Don’t throw her, don’t throw her.’ They took her first, and then they got me.”
Firefighters called to the 5300 block of 85th Avenue about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday found heavy fire in the building, which is three stories in the front and four stories in the back.
Four people with minor injuries were taken to a hospital, and 10 people were treated at the scene, authorities said. Nearly 100 firefighters battled the blaze for about 40 minutes before it was brought under control.