- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

An employee at George Washington University rescued several residents from a burning apartment building in Northwest yesterday before firefighters arrived.

Jordan Plieskatt, 23, was moving his car to avoid a ticket at a two-hour parking meter at about 11 a.m. when he saw smoke coming from St. Mary’s Court at 725 24th St. NW.

“I saw smoke pouring out of the building,” said Mr. Plieskatt, a former emergency medical technician who volunteered as a campus medic and as a medic in Alexandria.

Mr. Plieskatt, who works nearby at the university’s biotechnology department, entered the apartment building, where a receptionist was on the phone with 911. “I rushed up to the fourth floor,” he said. “There was a little smoke but no evidence of a fire.”

Mr. Plieskatt ran to the fifth floor, where smoke was heavy. He pounded on doors, alerting residents to the fire before heading to the sixth floor.

Within minutes, Mr. Plieskatt helped three persons downstairs to the building’s lobby before firefighters arrived.

Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said the three-alarm blaze erupted on the fifth floor of the nine-story apartment building. Mr. Etter said improperly disposed smoking materials were to blame.

Mr. Etter said the building is a federally subsidized housing complex and its 140 apartments are occupied mostly by senior citizens.

“This had all the makings of a potential disaster,” Mr. Etter said. “Whenever you have a building that’s on fire with that number of elderly people who need to be evacuated — many of whom have ambulatory issues and respiratory issues — it’s a serious situation.”

Mr. Etter said 10 residents were treated at the scene. Two residents, including the 72-year-old man in whose home the fire started, were taken to hospitals with minor injuries. The man tried to extinguish the fire and suffered burns to his hands. A firefighter suffered smoke inhalation.

Mr. Etter said about 60 people were evacuated and five apartment units were damaged. Ten residents will be staying at nearby George Washington University’s City Hall residence for the next several days.

During his rescue efforts, Mr. Plieskatt called in co-worker Julie Whitis, 21, for help.

He and Miss Whitis, who attends George Washington and is an emergency medical technician, helped the residents who came downstairs, as firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze.

Mr. Plieskatt estimated that they helped 11 persons, including several who complained of difficulty breathing and a 67-year-old woman who twisted her knee as she rushed downstairs.

“They were very calm and very confused,” Mr. Plieskatt said of the residents.

Mr. Plieskatt, who was checked by medics before returning to work, was coughing through much of yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Etter said the fire took about 15 minutes to bring under control and that sprinklers in the building’s hallway helped stop the fire from spreading.

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