A 62-year-old man was killed, several elderly persons were injured and many other residents were hurriedly exacuated from their top-floor rooms after a smoky fire broke out yesterday morning at the Roosevelt Hotel for Senior Citizens on 16th Street N.W.
Within minutes after the two-alarm blaze started in an eighth-story room at about 7 a.m., about 90 firefighters rushed to the 60-year-old privately owned brick residential hotel at 2101 16th St. NW.
Rescue workers carried elderly and disabled men and women on their backs down seven flights of stairs to safety. In a ground-floor library, a number of residents, including some in wheelchairs, were comforted and administered oxygen and medication by paramedics.
Amid the intensive rescue effort, many residents said that they felt no sense of panic. "I didn't get scared," said Abraham P. Michael, 72, after he was helped from his eight-floor room by a fireman. His face, thinning hair, white shirt and pink seersucker sport jackets were streaked with soot.
"Just heard the bell [and] used my head-that's all," said Andrew Bligh, 72, who had taken an elevator down from the fifth floor.
The victim was identified by investigative authorities as Terrell H. Pick, a retired employe of the Potomac Electric Power Co. He was reported by officials to have lived at the Roosevelt since January 1978. The hotel houses about 350 elderly persons. Police said Pick has a daughter living in the Washington area.
Pick resided in a one-room efficiency apartment on the eighth, or top, floor where the the fire broke out. The fire blackened a bed and all four walls and destroyed part of the green carpeting. Fire investigators tentatively attributed the fire to careless smoking.
An autopsy showed that Pick had died of smoke inhalation and severe burns. Four other residents-none seriously injured - were treated for smoke inhalation, according to hospital spokesman.
The fire was the fifth major blaze at an institution or large residence for elderly or other persons in the Washington area in the last two weeks, and it prompted expressions of concern from U.S. and local officials.
Fire Department spokesman Battalion Chief Richard M. Hubscher said that if smoke detectors had been installed at the Roosevelt, these "could have possibly save [Pick's] life." Hubscher said that under current law the Roosevelt is not required to install smoke detectors until July 1981. Roosevelt officials said yesterday that steps already have been taken to obtain and install such detectors.
Hubscher also said that a sprinkler system and stand pipes - fire hose connections inside a building - might have helped firefighters stem the blaze. The Roosevelt does not have sprinklers or stand pipes, officials said yesterday, but they added that current city regulations do not require such residential hotels to install them.
Rep. Claude D. Pepper (D-Fla.), whose subcommittee on health maintenance and long-term care plans hearings this morning on national incidents of fires at institutions for the aged, also toured the Roosevelt after yesterday's fire.
"We've got to tighten up the safety restrictions where all these elderly people live. It was a pitiful situation." Pepper said afterward.
D.C. City Councilman David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), whose Judiciary Committee is currently examining fire-prevention legislation, visited the Roosevelt yesterday morning. He said later that he is considering emergency legislation that would broaden mayoral powers to enforce fire-safety regulations and set earlier deadlines for installing smoke detectors.
Among other major fires this month was an April 11 blaze at a boarding home on Lamont Street NW, in which nine women mental outpatients died. Other serious fires have occurred at a George Washington University dormitory, the University Nursing Home in Silver Spring and a research hospital at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
Although there have been other fires at the Roosevelt, including a 1977 blaze that caused a woman's death, Fire Department officials described the residential hotel yesterday as soundly constructed and well maintained.
Fire Department records showed that the building was inspected last November Ten fire-safetly violations-all described as minor-were found and the department's records indicate that all 10 violations had been corrected by Dec. 21.
The violations listed in November included failure to have one fire extinguisher properly mounted, improper storage of paint cans, and inadequate or unclosed fire doors in several locations.
The Roosevelt's owner, Philadelphia philanthropist Frances Pew Hayes, a member of the family that founded Sun Oil Co., previously had stirred concern among the hotel's elderly residents by beginning negotiations to sell the building to an organization that intended to convert it to a dormitory for college students. The proposed sale fell through and officials said yesterday that no other sale is pending.
The other resident treated for smoke inhalation after yesterday's fire were identified as Joe Bertillo, 81; Leona Miller, 68; Esther Karpoff, 80, and Robert Gardner, 85.
In an interview, Albert Laniado, the Roosevelt's manager, described Pick as a heavy smoker. "Many of these people are heavy smokers," Laniado said. "How many times we have said to them, 'Please, please, don't do it. Don't smoke in the rooms. . .' It's a shame. I feel very sorry for this man." CAPTION: Picture, Firefighters carry two elderly residents of the Roosevelt Hotel to safety yesterday in the building's library. By Linda Wheeler-The Washington Post