A 50-year-old Northeast Washington man was killed yesterday when fire swept through his apartment and friends who tried to rescue him were blocked by flames, a D.C. Fire Department spokesman reported.

He said that Kay Walter Kiser, who lived in a third-floor apartment at 4840 Fort Totten Dr. NE, apparently became disoriented by the flames and smoke and was unable to escape.

Flames were leaping from the roof and through the windows of his apartment when firefighters arrived about 1:15 p.m., the spokesman said. Kiser was dead when he was taken from the building, officials said.

The spokesman said Earl and Jimmy Canty had tried to rescue Kiser by kicking down the door of the apartment, but were unable to reach him because the apartment "was completely engulfed in fire." Other residents of the 12-unit, brick, garden-style apartment building were apparently warned to evacuate by smoke detectors ringing in Kiser's apartment, the spokesman said.

He said that about 25 fire vehicles were sent to the blaze, which burned for about 30 minutes before 60 firefighters brought it under control.

Firefighter Richard Sterne of Engine Co. 24 suffered second-degree burns on his right knee while battling the blaze. He was treated at the Washington Hospital Center and released last night, a hospital spokesman said.

The cause of the fire, which started in the living room and did $75,000 damage, is under investigation, the fire department spokesman said.