The man and woman who died after a two-story apartment building caught fire in Southeast Washington on Tuesday were long-time squatters in the abandoned building, neighbors say. The victims were identified as 51-year-old Glenn Morris Williams and 56-year-old Diane Toogood.
Neighbors say the man and woman they only knew as Glenn and Diane had been living there for about two years despite the property being boarded up.
A man at the scene tells ABC7 that when people live in abandoned buildings like this one, he calls them "abandominiums."
"My window is directly across from the building and you could see everything that was going on," says Angela Harris, another neighbor. “It was a crack house, a crack house"
The flames were so intense and shot so high in the sky, they were visible for miles. Residents were quickly evacuated from the building, located at 1704 R St. SE.
The fire started around 10 a.m. Next door, Iola Williams had just gotten up for the day.
"The police came knocking at my door, saying there's a fire, get out," Williams recalled.
She was able to get out okay.
Two of her neighbors weren't as fortunate.
As more than 70 firefighters battled to contain the two-alarm blaze, one had to be dragged out of the burning building after breaking his ankle. Another firefighter suffered minor injuries.
As residents gathered, many wondered about the response to the fire. Some residents say it took fire crews several minutes to be able to get water to the building.
"It took them a while to get water," witness Joetta Fluella said.
Kachina Jackson, who also witnessed the fire, said, "One of the chiefs came running down the alley, saying, 'We need water now.'"