- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

D.C. officials said yesterday that the roughly 200 Mount Pleasant residents displaced in an apartment fire all have housing and the basic necessities but that more help is needed.

“There have been lots of contributions,” said Jo’Ellen Countee, spokeswoman for the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. “Right now, they don’t need any more clothing and those sort of things, [but] there will be needs for household furniture and things like small electrical appliances.”

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter yesterday confirmed that the blaze late Wednesday night started in the northeastern corner of the Winston Apartments basement. The cause has not been determined.

He said the damage to the four-story apartment building, in the 3100 block of Mount Pleasant Street, and nearby Meridian Hill Baptist Church is estimated to be more than $20 million.

Ms. Countee said that some of the 86 displaced families — many of whom are working-class or Hispanics immigrants — are staying with friends and relatives and that others are staying in a hotel.

She said the 25 homeless women staying in the basement of the fire-damaged church were moved to a similar facility at the nearby Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Ms. Countee said the agency is working with city school officials to provide transportation to students whose families have been displaced from the Upper Northwest neighborhood. The agency also is helping the temporary hotel residents obtain Metro fare cards so they can get to their jobs and other essential destinations.

Displaced residents can get cards at CentroNia, at 1420 Columbia Road NW, Ms. Countee said.

Construction crews yesterday began reinforcing the apartment building’s interior walls with steel scaffolding so the fire investigation and cleanup efforts can move forward.

A firefighter and female apartment resident were injured in the fire and transported to a hospital. Their injuries are not considered life-threatening.

It was the first five-alarm blaze in the city since March 31, 1979, when the vacant Kann’s department store, downtown on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, was heavily damaged.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s office yesterday asked for more help for victims. Officials said the items most needed are furniture and other home furnishings, hats and coats, unopened toiletries, baby formula, diapers and new undergarments.

Donations will be accepted at the D.C. General Warehouse, on Independence Avenue Northwest, behind the D.C. National Guard Armory, on Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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