Alarm system at senior apartment building in Southeast DC didn't work during fire


If you stood and looked up at Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing Thursday, you would be able to see the sky through windows on the top floor because the roof was a casualty in Wednesday's massive fire at the 160-unit senior apartment building.

“The big issue here is that the horns did not work..." said DC Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean.

Dean confirmed what many residents said Wednesday.

“The firefighter pulled the alarm and nothing happened," said Michelle Adams.

Dean said the fire started in the cock loft — an inaccessible attic area — and burned through the roof for some time, not affecting smoke detectors or sprinklers down below.

"Since there was no smoke on the first, second or third floors... the system hadn't gone off," said Dean.

The chief says there were no problems with detectors and sprinklers once they had a chance to work. It was the general alarm system:

“We inspected it a year ago, it was inspected by the housing authority in January," said Dean.

Baffling to residents like 75-year-old John Russell who has lived in the building since it opened.

“The fire alarms they test and test and and the one day they‘re supposed go off they didn't so I guess they’ll figure that our sooner or later," said Dean.

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