The Washington Post

Firefighte­rs return to the scene of a blaze in Northwest that left a 7-year-old dead.

- BY JASMINE HILTON AND PETER HERMANN jasmine.hilton@washpost.com peter.hermann@washpost.com

The afternoon was like any other Tuesday on Quebec Place. Until people on the Northwest D.C. street heard screams and saw smoke and fire billowing from a neighbor’s window.

It quickly became a rescue mission, with people rushing from their homes to help. Some said they saw adults yelling, “Save my kids!” and several children running from the burning rowhouse.

As residents gathered up the children outside, firefighte­rs soon arrived and went in.

Despite their efforts, a 7-yearold girl died after she was pulled from the home. D.C. police on Wednesday identified her as Karen Thomas. D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John A. Donnelly Sr. said she was a third-grader at Raymond Elementary.

A family member said the girl’s parents were not ready to speak publicly on Wednesday.

As the investigat­ion continued into what caused the blaze, D.C. fire officials and firefighte­rs returned to the neighborho­od Wednesday morning in hopes of preventing future fires. They arrived with free smoke alarms in hand and printed sheets of fire safety tips, and were welcomed by neighbors, who said they are making efforts to help the family moving forward.

“Any time something happens to any of the neighbors, it affects all of us,” said Geoffrey Tate Sr., 65, who has lived in the community for nearly 50 years.

Donnelly said firefighte­rs were called to the three-story home at about 3:10 p.m. and arrived in four minutes. He said the home was equipped with smoke detectors, which had gone off, and adult family members were evacuating the children with help from neighbors when officials arrived.

One neighbor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing privacy concerns, said she picked up one of the little boys running outside the burning home into the street Tuesday afternoon. While carrying him away in her arms, the neighbor said that the boy told her his sister had “run upstairs into the attic.”

When firefighte­rs went inside the home to search for victims, they located the girl on the third floor, Donnelly said.

The child was rushed to a hospital, where she later died Tuesday afternoon. Officials said they are not certain how many people were inside the home when the fire started.

The cause of the fire remains under investigat­ion. Donnelly said that it began in a room on the second floor and that smoke spread throughout the house.

“If it hadn’t had smoke detectors, with the children home, it would have been even worse,” Donnelly said.

Of the 10 fire fatalities this year in the District, two of the victims have been children, said Vito Maggiolo, a fire department spokesman. An 8-year-old boy died in May, days after he was pulled from a house fire in Southeast Washington, according to authoritie­s.

The other deaths were all people over 60, Maggiolo said. Children and older residents are most at risk, he said.

Visiting nearly 200 homes Wednesday, groups of fire officials talked to residents on Quebec Place, Rock Creek Church Road, Princeton Place and Warder Street NW. Fire Inspector Celina C. Primus went door-to-door on a block of homes, making sure residents checked for working smoke detectors and had a fire escape plan.

“When a tragedy like this happens, they want to know someone outside of immediate family cares for them,” Primus said. “We care.”

A dozen smoke alarms were installed during the Wednesday afternoon visits, Maggiolo said.

Will Letchinger, 26, and his roommate, Gabriel Hearn-desautels, 23, live in a house directly across the street from the home that burned.

They said, within the past day, neighbors have come together and bought new clothes, shoes, school supplies and food for the family.

“We’re going forward, figuring out how we can financiall­y contribute as a neighborho­od to gain them a better place to stay,” Letchinger said.

“If it hadn’t had smoke detectors, with the children home, it would have been even worse.” John A. Donnelly Sr., D.C. Fire and EMS chief

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