Fire that gutted DC apartment building caused by fireworks, officials say

Fire tears through DC apartments, sending 2 to hospital

Young people shooting off Roman candles on a balcony caused a massive blaze that tore through a D.C. apartment building Tuesday and displaced more than six dozen people, authorities say.

Seventy-six people lost their homes in the fire Tuesday afternoon at the Oxford Manor Apartments in the 2600 block of Bowen Road, when flames shot into the balcony of a second-floor apartment  and traveled to the attic and roof, causing the destruction of two apartment buildings. Investigators ruled the fire as accidental.

“We all enjoy fireworks, but many of us do not realize how dangerous they can be,” D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John A. Donnelly Sr. said in a statement.

Fireworks that fly, explode or move are illegal in D.C. Those using or selling illegal fireworks face a fine of up to $2,000 or arrest.

“This is a terrible tragedy for the residents whose lives have been disrupted because someone else was not safe with fireworks,” Donnelly said.

When firefighters arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. The heavy fire led to the evacuation of all fire units, and they continued to fight the blaze from outside using large water streams.

Two people, including one firefighter, were taken to the hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening.

The Red Cross said Tuesday it was assisting the people who lost their homes.

“Where are we going to live? Our clothes are burned. Are we going to have anything to wear?” were questions Christal McNeal had after she safely got out. Her mother Tomeka said she and her daughter, along with their dog, got out with nothing but the clothes they had on.

Another resident, Tierra Joppy, said she saw smoke everywhere as she tried to get her family out. The rental company told her that everything was a total loss.

“If I were able to restart everything, where do I start?” Joppy said. “This is not a car burning up, this is your house.”

roman candle
Illegal fireworks caused the fire that displaced more than six dozen people in Southeast D.C. (Courtesy D.C. Fire and EMS)

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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