Man, 74, Found in Apartment 5 Days After It Erupted in Flames: 'I Didn't Know About No Fire'
Washington, D.C., officials said all the residents of a senior housing building had been evacuated from the complex after it erupted in flames last Wednesday. Five days later, they found 74-year-old Raymond Holton inside.
The fire broke out around 3:20 p.m. at the four-story Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex and burned for several hours, Mayor Muriel Bowser and fire officials said in a news conference following the blaze. More than 160 residents walked out on their own or were carried out of the building, according to the Washington Post.
But during a follow-up search of the building on Monday, crew found Holton trapped inside his second-floor apartment.
“I wasn’t scared. I be here by myself,” Holton told the Post from his hospital bed at George Washington University Hospital where he was being treated for non life-threatening injuries. “I thought they forgot about me. I didn’t know about no fire.”
Bowser said in a Monday news conference that the building’s management company provided an inaccurate report to city officials, leading them to believe everyone had been removed from the building.
Laura Zeilinger, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, said that although building officials checked off Holton’s name on several lists of residents, “they had not laid eyes on him personally.”
Allyn Kilsheimer, president of K.C.E Structural Engineers (hired by Edgewood Management), said on Monday that his team found Holton as they worked to make sure the building was safe for inspectors to enter. Kilsheimer said Holton called out after he heard them in the halls.
“We got to this one door and I couldn’t open it. I have a master key, but the key wouldn’t open it,” Kilsheimer said, according to WJZY. “But the door was jammed and so we couldn’t open it. And so we heard a voice on the inside and we said, ‘We are coming to get you,’ and the voice said ‘I am not going anywhere,’ and I had guys come out to bigger crowbars essentially and we got the door open.”
Bowser said that city officials are searching for answers in the incident. And D.C. Council member Charles Allen criticized the management company.
“Right now, there are more questions than answers,” Allen said, according to the Post. “They told us every person was accounted for, but for whatever reason, they didn’t count everybody.”
Holton told the Post that he had water and his medication during the ordeal, and didn’t see firefighters outside the building because his apartment windows face the complex’s courtyard.
Now, he said he is “doing alright.” But, he added with a laugh, “I’m still hungry.”