- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2009


WASHINGTON — Authorities have identified the five people killed in a New Year’s Day house fire in Northeast Washington.

The victims included a five-year-old girl and her parents, a 10-year-old boy and an elderly man.

Fire officials say an electrical failure between the basement of the first floor of the two-story home is believed to have sparked the blaze, which broke out around 7 a.m.

The victims were: 23-year-old Keith Nelson; 22-year-old Tawanna Gant; their 5-year-old daughter, Kaniya Gant; 10-year-old Joseph Wilson; and 72-year-old Charles Smith. Authorities were not sure of the relationship between the boy, the older man and the other three victims.

Four other people were injured in the fire, including a child whose condition was described as grave.

“This is a monumental tragedy,” D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter said.

Mr. Etter said officials received multiple reports of a fire at 1014 Jackson Street in Northeast just after 7 a.m. Personnel arrived on the scene within one minute and found heavy fire and smoke emanating from the two-story single-family home.

Officials think eight people were in the house at the time of the fire.

Three of the victims died at the scene, while two were transported to an area hospital and later pronounced dead.

Mr. Etter said the 11-year-old boy was taken to Children’s National Medical Center and was in grave condition late Thursday morning. He was not expected to survive.

Three others a 41-year-old woman, a 44-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Mr. Etter said the 15-year-old was rescued from the rear porch of the house by ladder.

Mr. Etter said the fire looks to have started in the basement and spread upward throughout the house, but officials had not yet determined the cause of the blaze or if the home contained working smoke alarms.

“By the time the fire department was even notified this was a very well involved structure,” Mr. Etter said. “The fire had a huge jump on us.”

Rosa Page, a neighbor who lives on the opposite side of Jackson Street, said she called 911 after seeing smoke coming from the house. She also heard cries from those inside.

“The only thing I saw from the back window of my house was smoke and people calling for help,” said Mrs. Parks, 83. “After I came downstairs [firefighters] were already here.”

About 120 firefighters battled the two-alarm blaze, which Mr. Etter said was extinguished within an hour.

The AP said damage from the fire is estimated at $250,000.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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