- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Two George Washington University students are alive and well today, thanks to the efforts yesterday of D.C. firefighters who rescued the women from a smoke- and flame-filled apartment.
Lt. Robert Purdy fought his way through the smoke and found the two young women crouched on a bedroom window sill in the Northwest apartment, face to an open window, gasping for air.
"It was very close," he said. "It wouldn't have taken a whole lot more smoke to be lethal."
The fire started in the fifth-floor apartment after a cigarette ignited a futon in the living room, fire officials said. The fire blocked the exit to the apartment, forcing the women to retreat to their bedroom window.
The students were treated for smoke inhalation at George Washington University Medical Center and released later in the day.
"They are doing fine," said Gretchen King, spokeswoman for the university. "They are in good spirits."
Shortly before 5 a.m., an automatic alarm alerted firefighters to a blaze in the Statesman apartment building at 2020 F Street NW. About 43 firefighters and five engine companies arrived and began searching the building for smoke. Outside apartment 521, they found it.
"The smoke was down to floor level," said Lt. Kevin Stuart of Engine 23, who arrived with a hose. "We forced the door open. But we didn't know yet that people were trapped behind the smoke. We didn't hear anyone."
Lt. Stuart and other firefighters began putting out the fire on the futon, which had scorched the walls with smoke and melted a television.
Meanwhile, a friend of the two occupants who had spotted the women at the window alerted other firefighters outside.
Lt. Purdy plunged into the smoke and eventually found the two women "up on the window sill, trying to get air that was not smoky."
"They weren't yelling until I got close," he recalled. "Then they yelled, 'We're in here.' I broke a pane to let more air in. Their faces were all sooty. They endured a lot."
Lt. Purdy said the firefighters were impressed with the composure of the women in the face of such danger.
"They did good," said Lt. Purdy. "They were lucky to survive this. They said they came close to jumping. It was good they hung on."
"Thank God we were able to get them out," said Lt. Stuart. "It all worked like clockwork."
The two students have been offered temporary and long-term housing by the university, school officials said.
The two women were unavailable for comment on the rescue. School and fire officials withheld their identities.

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