A small child playing with a sparkler accidentally caused a fire that heavily damaged a two-story house in Southeast Washington early yesterday, leaving 13 persons homeless, D.C. fire officials said.
Fire investigator Khalid Hassan said the fire, which caused $30,000 in damage to the house at 3200 Stanton Rd. SE, apparently was touched off when one of six children living in the house tried to throw a sparkler out the window. Hassan said the sparkler landed instead on a couch in the living room.
Firefighters were summoned to the three-bedroom house at 8:06 a.m. to quell a blaze that destroyed the possessions of the 13 occupants and forced the seven adults and six children to spend the rest of the holiday weekend in motel rooms arranged by the Red Cross.
No injuries were reported in the blaze.
A boy who lived in the house told a reporter he had tried to extinguish the fire himself before calling for help.
Theodore Payne, one of the seven adult occupants of the house, said he had been asleep in the living room until awakened by smoke and noise.
Payne, who said he believed the blaze may have broken out about 7:30 a.m. said he tried himself to put out the fire and drag out the flaming debris, "but I couldn't.' "
"It started blazing up," said Payne, a porter in an apartment complex in Northern Virginia. "I couldn't put it out." He said he was most concerned about getting the children safely out of the house.
He roused three other adults, and together they herded the six children outside. Three other adults who lived at the house were not home at the time.
Yesterday afternoon the children began picking through the fire-charred, waterlogged remains of the family's possessions.
Meanwhile, another member of the household, Ruben Jackson, said the family would celebrate the holiday after all. He said they would go to a barbecue at his mother's home in Northeast today.
"We'll still have our Fourth of July," Jackson said. "It just won't be here."