Home of Dorothy Brizill, Washington D.C. community activist, severely damaged by 2-alarm fire

10:28 PM, May 4, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -  A fire caused heavy damage to the Columbia Heights home of longtime DC community activist Dorothy Brizill.

Firefighters got the call after 4 p.m. and found the fire raging on the upper floors of the three-story building. They immediately called in a second alarm, and began pouring water on the fire from several spots on the ground, and eventually from ladders and buckets in the air.

At first it looked as though the first floor was not as badly damaged, but the fire was persistent and an inner wall collapsed, rupturing a gas line and increasing the hazard to firefighters.

One firefighter received minor injuries and was taken to a burn center.

Neither Brizill nor her husband Gary Imhoff were home when the fire started. Brizill arrived to see firefighters trying to save her home. But it soon became apparent that the building was going to be nothing more than a shell.

And then the home collapsed, a total loss. Mayor Vincent Gray arrived to console Brizill, but her blood pressure spiked and she was put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.

"It's hard to imagine coming home and having your house burn down. That's your life, that's your history. It's probably not too many more destabilizing feelings than having nan experience like this, "said Gray.

That ruptured gas line continued to be a safety concern. The street was blocked for hours but given the intensity of hte fire and given worries it couldn't realistically be done, firefighters managed to keep the two adjoining homes from catching fire.

"The proximity of the homes is something to think about. The guys and ladies did an outstanding job...so when the house collapsed, nobody was injured on the collapse," said Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.

 The building has been a source of contention between Brizill and the city which has in recent years put it on a condemned list and forced repairs as Brizill accused city leaders in the past of retaliating for her watchdog activities.



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