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74-year-old man found alive 5 days after D.C. senior apartment building fire

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by Victoria Sanchez/ABC7

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — A 74-year-old man was found alive five days after a fire tore through the attic and fourth floor of a senior apartment building in Southeast Washington Wednesday afternoon.

The man, whose name has not been released, was discovered Monday morning as structural engineers were surveying the fire damage at Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a media briefing.

Search dogs, police, firefighters and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went back to the building five days after first-responders cleared the three-alarm fire. The 74-year-old resident was trapped inside his unit since Wednesday.

The structural engineer said the man’s front door was swollen shut from the heat and water used to put out the flames.

“If I had to use crowbars and construction workers to get into his door, he would have had to use them to get out. There was no way, in my option, for him to get out,” said Allyn Kilsheimer.

Kilsheimer said it took crews 10 minutes to break down the door with crowbars and get the man out. The water and electricity in the building was shut off and they saw water bottles on the kitchen table.

“For somebody that’s been in that situation for as long as him, he seemed incredibly in good shape. From my perspective,” he said.

When firefighters were going door-to-door looking for residents during the fire, walls and the roof started falling. They were unable to do a secondary search. The fire chief did not know if first responders checked the 74-year-old’s second story residence.

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“I cannot answer that specific apartment. Again, we just know that when you’re pulling people out they may have missed the apartment. I just can’t answer that,” said DC Fire Chief Gregory Dean.

When the property management company Edgewood said everyone got out, District authorities took them at their word. Edgewood gave the District at least two different lists of residents.

“The building management’s information, we already know one case, this case, where it didn’t match up with what they said,” said Bowser.

“Today they acknowledged that they had not laid eyes on him personally,” said a member of Bowser’s staff.

The man was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

“Very lucky man,” said Kilsheimer.

ABC7 News reached out to Edgewood Management and have not heard back as of Monday afternoon.

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