A fire destroyed an apartment in the historic Cairo apartment building yesterday morning, forcing the temporary evacuation of most residents of the 11-story complex. There were no injuries.

D.C. fire officials said the fire destroyed an apartment on the 9th floor of the building, which was constructed at 1615 Q St. NW in 1894 and is considered the city's tallest building.

About eight fire trucks and rescue units responded to the 6 a.m. blaze, but the 156-foot height of the structure prevented aerial ladders from reaching the top floors, according to firefighters at the scene.

The fire was contained in about 20 minutes, however, according to Michael Hurley, a resident of the building who was stranded along with his wife in their 9th story apartment while firefighters extinguished the flames.

Murphy praised the fire department's quick, effective work, saying he and others on the floor had been unable to leave the building because the thick smoke in the halls.

The Cairo, once a famous hotel that was criticized for its neo-Moorish facade and called an architectural aberration, was built by Thomas Franklin Schneider. The extraordinary height of the structure caused Congress to enact legislation limiting the size of private buildings to 90 feet. That limit was later amended to 130 feet.

After continued deterioration that forced its closing as a hotel in 1972, the Cairo was sold to a new developer, restored according to a design by architect Arthur Cotton Moore and reopened in 1976 as a renovated 170-unit apartment complex.