About 75 people displaced by apartment fire in Columbia Heights

By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 1, 2010; 8:36 AM

About 50 adults and 25 children were displaced from their apartment building in Columbia Heights early Monday by an electrical fire that officials said may be related to building code violations.

No one was injured.

The fire in the basement of the three-story building at 1514 Newton St. NW was relatively minor and quickly extinguished, D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said. But it left the building without electricity -- meaning no heat, no light and no working fire alarm system. City inspectors were examining possible code violations that may need to be addressed before the building can be occupied again.

Piringer said the residents of the building were evacuated when the fire was reported shortly before 5 a.m. The families were sheltered from the cold in a Metrobus that was brought to the site for that purpose.

City officials and the Red Cross were preparing to open a temporary shelter for the displaced residents at the nearby Columbia Heights recreation center. Firefighters escorted residents into the building so they could retrieve personal belongings before heading to the recreation center.

Piringer said the fire appeared to start with a power surge in an underground cable. "It basically blew an electrical meter off the wall," he said.

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