About 30 people were evacuated yesterday from the top two floors of the Hotel Harrington at 11th and E streets NW after a fire broke out in a penthouse structure on the roof of the hotel. No injuries were reported.
Deputy Fire Chief William Mullikin said the fire started at about 1:55 p.m. in mechanical equipment house in the penthouse structure, and quickly spread to the electrical wiring. Total damage to the building was estimated at $10,000.
Earlier in the day, fire engulfed a two-story residence at 1520 25th St. SE. Third Battalion Chief Robert Baker said that blaze apparently started because of an electrical short circuit in a basement bedroom and spread quickly through the back porch, kitchen, second floor and attic. There were no injuries. Damage was estimated at $50,000.
Claudette Murphy, who said she was in the house at the time the fire started, said she dialed the 911 emergency services telephone number to summon the fire department but received no answer. She said the family was able to get through to the fire department by using a fire alarm box on the corner in front of the house.
Family members also complained that it took the fire department about 20 minutes to arrive on the scene.
But Capt. Bill Heishman of the3rd Battalion said fire department records show the first call was received at 11:58 a.m. and that fire trucks were dispatched at 11:59 a.m. The first truck on the scene did not report its time of arrival, but the second truck reported arriving at 12:03 p.m., Heishman said.
A spokesman for the D.C. police department, which responds to calls on the 911 emergency number, said he had no idea why there would be no answer on that line unless the caller misdialed or there was a malfunction in the phone system. Such malfunctions are rare, he said