Management company launches investigation after fire at DC senior apartments

WASHINGTON — The management company of the senior living apartment complex in D.C. that burned and partially collapsed last week has launched an internal investigation of its facilities and decision-making.

Fire at the Arthur Capper Senior Apartments in the 900 block of Fifth Street SE began Sept. 19, burned for two days, and displaced almost 100 seniors with low incomes.

Five days after the fire, a 74-year-old man was discovered alive, but trapped inside his apartment. He has now been discharged from the hospital, WTOP has learned.

“We have opened an internal investigation and are working closely with the D.C. Council, D.C. Fire Chief and the Mayor to understand exactly what happened, and why,” said Edgewood Management CEO Cindy Sanquist, in a statement. “The safety and security of our residents in the communities we serve is our top priority.”

According to a source familiar with the management company, D.C. Fire and EMS is taking the lead role in the investigation into whether fire alarms, smoke detector and sprinklers were functioning as they should when the fire began in the attic and upper floors of the building.

Previously, D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean told reporters that while smoke detectors worked in individual apartments, the main alarm system did not sound throughout the building.

In an email, a D.C. Fire spokesman said the department is now working with developers and structural engineers to get to parts of the building that have been mostly inaccessible since the fire so that dogs trained to search for human remains can do a search of the entire building. The search comes even after D.C. city officials have confirmed that all residents have been accounted for.

The fire department spokesman said the plan is to turn the building back over to the owners late Friday.

The source familiar with the management company said immediately after the fire, Edgewood Management assured residents had somewhere to live — some were placed in hotels, others in nearby properties run by the company.

“We have been working to relocate all of the residents affected by the fire and help them secure long-term housing in the days and weeks to come,” Sanquist said.

This week, Mayor Muriel Bowser said full recovery from the fire will take “many, many months,” and vowed to help provide services seniors would need, while their housing is in flux.


Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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