The D.C. government plans to send 25 building inspectors today to the Northwest Washington neighborhood where a 21-year-old Georgetown University senior died in a weekend rowhouse fire, in response to complaints from residents and students about rental conditions, authorities said.
Daniel Rigby, a business major known for his outgoing nature, died Sunday morning in a fire sparked by faulty wiring leading to a furnace in the rowhouse in the 3300 block of Prospect Street NW, fire officials said. He and another student were living in the basement, where the fire started. Three other friends lived upstairs.
Residents have complained for years about students cramming into houses near Georgetown, saying the crowding into aging rental units -- some more than a century old -- is dangerous.
David A. Clark, director of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said the inspectors will evaluate rental units, concentrating on 86 properties from the 3200 block through the 3400 block of Prospect Street, he said.
City inspectors, residents and university officials had been discussing the rental problems for the past few months, but Rigby's death led to today's action, Clark said.
Rigby was sleeping in the room with the furnace. Some friends said the house had old wiring. Fire officials said the house met codes and had working smoke alarms.
Inspectors need permission from tenants or landlords to enter houses. They can issue fines, warnings and citations for dangerous conditions. If landlords fail to make repairs, Clark said, the city can do the work and issue tax liens on properties.
Some landlords have been telling students not to allow inspectors into houses, said Bill Starrels, a local advisory neighborhood commissioner.
Todd A. Olson, vice president of student affairs at Georgetown, issued a statement yesterday saying that university officials and inspectors will hold a meeting on campus to discuss tenant rights.
Friends of Rigby's, meanwhile, mourned the loss of a tough but kindhearted student who loved politics and rugby.
Rigby and several friends, some on the school's rugby team, had thrown a get-together Saturday night while watching the baseball playoffs. He apparently slept through the fire, which started about 8:45 a.m., officials said.
Rigby, whose family lives in River Edge, N.J., was scheduled to graduate next year. Although he had stopped playing rugby last year because of injuries and other activities, he remained a social member of the squad.
"He was the first person to look you in the eye and smile at you," said Tom McKiernan, 21, a senior. "He was absolutely the most genuine, loyal friend to many of us."
Rigby loved helping others, friends said. Last year, he and several friends spent a week blazing a nature trail behind an elementary school in West Virginia as part of the Habitat for Humanity program.
One day, a dump truck dropped 15 tons of gravel on the site for the students to spread out along the trail, said Dan O'Toole, who also went on the trip.
Rigby immediately took charge, organizing a crew of six students to spread out the gravel. They were done in four hours.
"He got the job done," said O'Toole, 22. "And he did a great job doing it.
"He didn't complain because he had to move 15 tons of gravel. He was excited by it."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.