A 68-year-old woman and her 65-year-old husband were fatally burned last night when they were trapped on the second floor of a Northwest Washington row house by what a fire official described as an "unsurvivable" blaze.
Six other residents of the three-story brick building at 1203 Harvard St. NW apparently were on the first floor or in the basement when the fire broke out about 7 p.m. and were able to escape without injury, authorities said.
Fire department spokesman Ray Alfred said firefighters were alerted that people were trapped inside, ". . . but there was just too much fire. It was just impossible for them firefighters to go up." Sixty-five firefighters battled the blaze, which took about 15 minutes to bring under control.
Officials identified the dead couple as Charles Wesley Pace, a retired truck driver, and his wife, Anna Mae, a domestic worker. The woman was pronounced dead on the scene. Her husband, who suffered third-degree burns over his entire body, was taken to the burn unit of the Washington Hospital Center, where he died shortly before midnight.
Fire officials estimated damage to the row house at $80,000. The two adjoining row houses, including a facility operated by the Boys and Girls Club Group Homes of Greater Washington at 1201 Harvard St. NW, suffered water and slight fire damage. The 10 young residents of the group home were on an outing when the fire broke out. They were being housed elsewhere last night.
Investigators said last night that the blaze started in the stairway area of the first-floor foyer and spread quickly to the second floor, where the Paces lived.
Hilda Dunn, 63, who lived with her 60-year-old husband Joseph on the third-floor of the house, said they were eating dinner in the first-floor kitchen when Anna Pace yelled to her for help.
"We tried to get her, but the smoke was so heavy," Hilda Dunn said later.
Myrties Jones, owner of the house and the mother of Charles Pace, was in the first-floor dining room when the fire was discovered, and Katherine Primrose, who lived in the basement apartment with her daughter Natausha, said Jones beat on the floor with her cane to alert them.
Jones and the Dunns fled out the back door. An eighth resident, James Thompkins, 65, and a brother of Anna Pace, escaped without injury.
Four firefighters suffered apparently minor injuries in the fire, and none required hospitalization, officials said.