“I shouted, ‘Jeffery! Jeffery!’ ” Burford said. But the flames were too hot. The door frame melted. Windows popped, sprinkling shattered glass onto the sidewalk.
“I couldn’t get near the house,” said Burford, a D.C. police officer who was off-duty when he used his radio to call for help about 7:15 p.m. “I wanted to get Jeffery. But there was no way.”
Jeffery Alan Nedoroscik, 42, died inside the three-story rowhouse in the 1800 block of First Street, where he had lived for two years. He had written two books and traveled the world for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
By Wednesday, D.C. police and fire investigators had not determined the cause of the fire, which neighbors said seemed to consume the dwelling in seconds, or of Nedoroscik’s death.
Burford, who has lived on the street for 20 years, said two roommates recently moved out of the rowhouse; Henian Boone had just moved into the basement. Nobody other than Nedoroscik was harmed in the fire, authorities said.
A woman who answered the phone at Nedoroscik’s family home in Sutton, Mass., declined to speak to a reporter.
Officials at USAID issued a statement confirming that “our friend and colleague was the victim in the fire.” The agency said Nedoroscik worked for many years in Cairo, Africa and Croatia, where he served as an executive officer.
Details of Nedoroscik’s life could be found sprinkled on his Facebook page — his friends number in the hundreds and are from throughout the world, from Kabul to Vienna. He wrote “The City of the Dead: A History of Cairo’s Cemetery Communities” — a history of that city’s ancient burial grounds — and “Walking in the City of the Dead: A Visitor’s Guide.”
Neighbors said they were saddened by Nedoroscik’s death but also said he sometimes created problems on the block, occasionally banging his sport-utility vehicle into parked cars after drinking.
Some linked his troubles to horrors he witnessed in war-torn and impoverished countries, including Rwanda.
An arrest warrant in connection with a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol on his block during the summer was still pending at the time of his death, online court records show.
On Wednesday, Boone went into the house and salvaged only enough possessions to fill the bottom of a trash bag.
“I will miss his smile,” Boone said. “He was a published author. He went all over the world. He will be missed.”
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.