Firefighters spread safety awareness after DC 3rd grader dies in Petworth fire

D.C. fire crews were out canvassing the Petworth neighborhood in D.C. Wednesday morning after a fire killed a 7-year-old girl the day before.

Firefighters knocked on doors, talked with residents and offered to check or replace smoke detectors and left pamphlets with fire prevention and safety tips.

One neighbor wanted to know what could be done to help the family affected.

D.C. Fire Chief John Donnelly said the fire broke out Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m. in a bedroom on the second floor of a three story rented row house on the 700 block of Quebec place. There were a number of children and adults in the home at the time.

Donnelly said the fire was contained in the bedroom and smoke spread to the rest of the home. The girl, later identified as Karen Thomas, was found on the third floor. Everyone else in the home was able to get out to safety.

He said that firefighters responded within minutes, and the fire was put out 8 minutes later. Thomas, a third grader at Raymond Elementary school, was found shortly after and treated with advanced life support care. She was transported to Children’s National Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but there doesn’t appear to be any criminal involvement.

Donnelly also said smoke detectors were active and working in the home and that they absolutely saved lives. But he said smoke detectors aren’t enough.

“For fire prevention activities it’s really important to remember that smoke detectors aren’t the save-all. You’ve got to talk about your exit plan, you’ve got to talk about rendezvous points and look for other ways to prevent fires in the first place,” Donnelly said.

Nathaline Richardson, who lives in an attached home to the left of the affected home said the children typically play loudly but when she heard screaming she knew something was wrong.

“One of my girlfriends across the street had several of the kids around her just screaming and hollering. It was sad, very sad,” Richardson said.

The fire caused significant damage to the row house but didn’t extend to the neighboring homes.

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