Blocked hydrant delays firefighters in SE DC apartment blaze; 21 displaced

A car blocks a fire hydrant in D.C. as firefighters respond to a blaze.

Firefighters respond to an apartment fire in D.C. on Saturday.

A car blocks a fire hydrant in D.C. as firefighters respond to a blaze.

A car blocks a fire hydrant in D.C. as firefighters respond to a blaze.

Fire investigators examine the burnout part of the apartment complex.

D.C. Fire & EMS officials observe the damage from outside of the apartment complex.

Red Cross is on the scene of a fire in D.C.


A blocked hydrant delayed firefighters on Saturday as they responded to a blaze at an apartment building in Southeast D.C. where people were reported trapped.

Firefighters were called to the 300 block of 37th Place SE in the Fort Dupont neighborhood around 5:45 a.m. where a fire had broken out on the first floor of a two-story apartment building.

When help arrived, the firefighters spent “critical minutes” getting to the fire due to a car parked directly in front of a hydrant, obstructing their ability to attach a hose and put out the fire quickly, D.C. Fire & EMS spokesman Vito Maggiolo said.

“A key challenge was that there was a blocked fire hydrant at the end of this cul-de-sac. Anytime you block a fire hydrant, you are delaying us in getting water to supply … it could have had serious, or fatal, consequences,” Maggiolo told WTOP’s Melissa Howell.

Fourteen people were displaced, including nine adults and 12 children, according to a spokesperson. Two children were transported to the hospital. The capital region Red Cross is on scene assisting.

One apartment was “pretty much burned down,” Maggiolo added, with some minor damage to adjacent apartments.

Two dogs were killed in the fire.

Maggiolo said that the driver of the fire truck knew the area, which helped save time as the fire hydrant could not be seen from the street because it was blocked by the car.

“He, of course, did what he had to do to run a hose around the around the vehicle and connect to the hydrant,” Maggiolo said, reminding drivers that parking in front of a fire hydrant and blocking access is illegal and can even be deadly as it could delay response time.

In recent years, Maggiolo said that firefighters have busted through windows in order to run the hose through the car and to the hydrant if a vehicle is blocking a critical source of water to a blaze.

“The fire hydrant is our water lifeline. If we can’t get to the hydrant or we’re delayed getting to the hydrant, the fire has time to expand and again, the threat increases,” Maggiolo said.

Even stopping for a quick moment could be critical time for firefighters. It could also get the vehicle ticketed and towed.

“That moment when you go into the store or you’re going to be doing some errand is when a fire can take place nearby,” he said.

An additional hurdle to Saturday’s fire were barred windows in the first floor apartment.

“One woman in the rear had escaped — even though her window was barred, it had a gate device on it, allowing her to open the bars and escape through that window,” Maggiolo said.

If there are barred windows on a home for security, at least one should have a gate attached to allow for escape during an emergency.

“I know bars are intended to keep intruders out, but in a fire, they can also trap you inside,” Maggiolo said.

WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

Related Categories:

Local News | Washington, DC News


fire | hydrant

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