More people have died as a result of fires in Ward 6 since 2000 than in any of the District's seven other wards, according to the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
To combat the blazes, the department has launched a fire prevention program in that part of the city using $25,000 from a federal grant.
The agency said there have been 18 fire fatalities in Ward 6 over the past five years and 10 months. Ward 7 is tied for the second-most deaths, 14, with Ward 4, where two women perished in a blaze on Georgia Avenue on Oct. 13. Fire officials believe it was accidentally ignited by burning incense.
The crux of the prevention effort in Ward 6 involves the distribution of home safety kits, which include smoke detectors, flashlights, a pamphlet with evacuation information for the disabled, a small first- aid box and 911 stickers for children that contain instructions on how to call authorities in the event of a fire.
Fire officials and their nonprofit partner in the campaign, the D.C. chapter of Safekids, said they could not explain precisely why Ward 6 has suffered a higher number of fire deaths than other areas. D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) said she was somewhat puzzled by the numbers.
"I am kind of surprised because we do not have a whole lot of multifamily dwellings, like Ward 1 does, for example," she said. "But I think the program has some excellent prevention ideas, one of the best being the distribution of smoke detectors."
Kimberly Harris, coordinator of Safekids D.C., said, "What we have seen is that the elderly and kids who have been left at home are particularly vulnerable to setting fires unintentionally."
Harris added that "most of these fires start with good intentions, like cooking, smoking, using portable space heaters, burning candles and incense and having multiple electrical cords plugged into one outlet." Experts said that though they are illegal in the District, kerosene heaters cause a number of fires each year.
Ward 6 is bounded by Benning Road, Florida Avenue and New York Avenue NE to the north and by Sixth Street NW and the Washington Channel to the west. To the east, it is bounded by the Anacostia River and 22nd and 19th streets NE. Its southern boundary is the Anacostia.
The fire fatality figures for other parts of the District since 2000 are: 13 in Ward 5; 10 in Ward 8; 7 in Ward 1; 6 in Ward 2; and 3 in Ward 3.
Kathryn Friedman, a spokeswoman for the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said Safekids approached the agency a year ago about a partnership after it received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
"Safekids needed a proposal that focused on the area in the District with the greatest number of fire fatalities over the preceding five years," Friedman said.
She said fire safety educators started conducting home visits in the summer for Ward 6 residents who requested them. The agency has handed out about 100 safety kits.
Friedman said the grant money also funded several focus groups last year from Ward 6 that included individuals and families with different socioeconomic backgrounds. The objective was to determine what residents knew about fire safety.
"One of the things we learned is that people seem to have the same fire safety knowledge whether they were single or in families, no matter their income levels or education levels," Friedman said. "One of the challenges is to make sure people use the knowledge they have."
Friedman said Ward 6 residents who want to participate in the program should call the agency's fire prevention division at 202-727-1614. Any District resident can request a home safety survey by calling 202-673-3331.
"This is a first for us in terms of the safety kits, and it could be a model for reaching out to other parts of the city as well," Friedman said.