As Elexus Harkum sifts through her belongings, attempting to salvage what little she can, she’s also acknowledging how fortunate she is.
“I’m OK. I feel kind of upset about it, but everything is good,” she says.
The fact that she and four other family members walked away unharmed by Thursday night’s blaze on K Street NW, neighbors in the Sursum Corda complex say was thanks in large part to Paul Sutton, 7-year-old Randell’s father.
“They were calling him a hero,” says Randell.
Randell watched as his father tried to pull people to safety.
“He was saving people because those are our neighbors and he didn’t want our neighbors to get caught on fire so he was saving them,” he says.
Witnesses say Sutton saw the smoke before anyone else. As he rushed into the apartment to help, he slipped, falling through a third story window.
His son says his injuries are severe, but he’s awake.
“His leg is broken, bones in his neck. They are going to put a rod in,” says Randell.
According to Harkum, the fire started from an electrical outlet.
“Sparks,” she says. “It was sparking. It was already sparking.”
There were working smoke detectors. However, tonight there are questions and concerns as to why an escape route was triple locked Tuesday night. The only way for residents to evacuate was to use the exit just steps from the fire, instead of a gate on the opposite side of the complex.
“I think that’s a hazard to our health. We always wondered what would happen if there was a fire,” says Harkum.