Firefighters Rescue Occupants Trapped In Washington, D.C. Apartment Fire

Reprinted with Permission

Updated: Scroll Down to Watch Interviews

WASHINGTON (WUSA) - When firefighters ran up nine flights of an apartment building to reach the source of a raging fire in a Logan Circle apartment building, they had no idea how many people they needed to rescue.

Fire showing from northwest Washington, D.C. apartment.
(Image courtesy Vito Maggiolo/WUSA9)
Images: Rhode Island Avenue Apartment Fire

Firefighters Tell Harrowing Tale of Saving Lives

The fire that started at the 10-story Windsor Apartments located at 1444 Rhode Island Avenue, NW began around 4:45 on Tuesday. It took dozens of heroic acts to make sure everyone got out of the building safely.

"We had reports of multiple rescues but we had zero visibility," said Sgt. Ralph Thompson, who was one of the first firefighters to reach people trapped inside. "We started searching different apartments found several people. I told them there was no way to let them out of the hallway. So we had to place them near a window."

Firefighters in the building then called for back up trucks with ladders to reach the remaining people trapped. Firefighter Vito Maggiolo caught video of three women waving cell phones and cloths through broken windows.

With barely any move for error, Firefighter Dave Jackson had to squeeze the truck through a back alley to reach the people in the windows. A pest control truck blocked his turn.

"My officer is a stickler about getting to the rear of a building," he said. "So our heads were going to roll if we didn't get into the rear of the building. We got the stick up, we took out that truck in the back. It wasn't going to happen if that truck wasn't going to move."

When they reached the women, they had to calm them down by yelling, "Don't Jump." Jackson and fellow Firefighter Mark Leuckett both managed to move a six-person ladder to reach the women. Leuckett climbed up what was equivalent to 14 flights of stairs in minutes.

"I just asked her to stay calm," he said. " Stay where she's at there are guys on the inside coming to get her."

One of those guys was Lt. John Desautels. He helped clear a path through the hallways along with another firefighter to take one of the women to safety.

"She was just happy to see somebody knowing she was finally safe," he said. "The other firefighter actually took his face piece off put it on her and took her donw the building."

It's still unclear the total number of people rescued by the firefighters. All of the victims were taken for treatment at a nearby hospital.

Firefighters are still investigating the cause of the fire and it's still unknown how many people are displaced.

Aftwerwards, all four of the firefighters who interviewed with 9NEWS NOW were so calm.

"There are moments when you get excited but you just can't let that take over," said Thompson. "Actually, I'm more nervous talking to you then going up there."

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Great job to my brothers on scene of that fire. Quite a few very large fires in a 24 hour period in DC. They did an amazing job and I couldn't be more proud. Unfortunately one life was lost in the earlier fire in SW DC.
To my old Truck Company, GREAT JOB!! Keep the Nine Trucking Company rolling guys!
Mission:"To rescue order from chaos." Very impressive.
Great job to my brothers in the DCFD
Great Job DCFD!
Awesome job DCFD!!!!

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