Peggy Cooper Cafritz had held hundreds of community fundraisers, art gallery events, civic meetings and -- of course -- thousands of familiy gatherings in her northwest Washington home on Chain Bridge Road N.W.
"I think a lot of people considered it a community center," Cafritz said laughingly Thursday as she stood on the now-vacant property. "That is a good way to put it. It's where I did my life. I mean, you know, it's where my kids grew up."
In July 2009, a spectacular fire destroyed the mansion, family mementos and an art collection worth millions.
Now Cafritz has filed a $30 million suit against D.C. Water, saying inadequate fire hydrants and water pressure prevented the fire department from containing a blaze that swept through her home.
After the fire, D.C. officials including Mayor Adrian Fenty acknowledged that there was poor communication between the water department and city fire department about the water pressure and location of working fire hydrants. Since that fire, the two departments have worked more closely to maintain an up-to-date log of hydrants' locations and which water pressures are available. Some of the hydrants and water lines date back to the 1800s.
D.C. Water declined comment Thursday, but new director George Hawkins issued a sympathetic statement, saying his department understands the loss Cafritz has faced. Hawkins said the department had not yet received the suit, but would study it and take "any appropriate action."
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