- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Adams Morgan condominium was heavily damaged by a four-alarm fire early yesterday as firefighters struggled to get enough water pressure to fight the flames.

The fire appeared to have started on the roof or roof deck of the four-story building at 2627 Adams Mill Road NW.

“It was a tremendous fire. There was astronomical water damage,” fire department spokesman Alan Etter said. “It took six or seven hours to put out.”

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty promised at noon to speed up renovations of the city’s oldest water lines.

“Lines need to be replaced just as soon as humanly possible. There’s nothing more to say. The lines aren’t big enough,” Mr. Fenty said at a press conference outside the smoking building.

Fire department officials said they needed 10 hoses to fight the blaze but could not get enough water in the area even for three. Crews had to unfurl 4,000 additional feet of hose across the Duke Ellington Bridge to Connecticut Avenue Northwest, where they could connect to hydrants served by a larger water main.

“We were dumping thousands of gallons of water,” Mr. Etter said.

About 50 residents of the 28-unit building were being evacuated at 1:24 a.m. as firefighters arrived. Although no damage was reported at neighboring buildings, those residents also were evacuated.

As firefighters confirmed that no people remained inside, the roof and walls began collapsing.

Firefighters did find six cats and a dog, who were evacuated without injury, Mr. Etter said.

“We didn’t find anything dead,” he said.

Two of the 160 firefighters were hit on the head and back by debris knocked by water spouts off the roof and a roof deck. They were treated at a hospital. No one else was injured.

Jerry N. Johnson, general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, said the pipes in the area date between 1903 and 1907 and are only 6 inches wide. About 170 miles of pipes, or 13 percent of the city’s pipes, are that size, Mr. Johnson said. Newer mains are 20 inches wide.

Current plans call for the old pipes to be modernized over the next 20 years, but Mr. Fenty said the timetable must be accelerated.

A temporary shelter for the displaced residents was set up at Engine 21 in the 1700 block of Lanier Place Northwest. The Red Cross was assisting displaced people. Mr. Etter said most of them were moving in with relatives.

Residents of neighboring undamaged units were permitted to return when the condominium fire was extinguished.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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