Southeast DC

‘You gotta get out of here': DC senior saved by strangers as fireworks destroyed apartment complex

James Webb, 73, was rescued from an apartment fire last week with the help of good Samaritans

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As flames ripped through buildings in the Oxford Manor Apartments on Bowen Road Southeast last Tuesday, James Webb, 73, was in a terrible position.

The toxic smoke pouring into his apartment hit his lungs, which already were weakened by COPD and other health problems. He also is legally blind.

He said he believes a knock on his door and two men he did not know saved his life.

“They said, ‘You gotta get out of here,’” Webb said. “They try to pull me and I’m holding onto things.”

He was able to grab photos of his late wife and their children.

Police believe young people playing with illegal fireworks accidentally started the fire.

Juveniles were seen playing with Roman candles just before the fire, DC Fire and EMS said. Flames from a Roman candle shot onto a second-balcony and quickly shot upward into the attic and roof and then engulfed another building, fire investigators found. A total of 76 people were forced out of their homes and lost their belongings.

Webb was hospitalized. After he was released, he needed to replace medications that cost him $200, even with insurance.

Webb said he’s grateful to apartment complex managers who arranged his stay in a hotel and then offered him a vacant apartment in another complex managed by the same company.

It’s some distance from Oxford Manor, which he first called home in the early '90s. It was a place he knew well and was able to navigate with his disabilities.

He said he's confused as to why he was not among the displaced tenants placed in empty units at Oxford Manor.

It could be a long stay in this new, unfamiliar place with little more than a bed and his family photos.

“Everything is really unusable,” Webb said. “There’s smoke damage, there’s water damage and the ceiling came down.”

Webb shook his head at the cause of the fire — Illegal fireworks, according to officials — that caused so much loss and long-term inconvenience for nearly 80 people.

“They had these things, keep pulling the trigger and shoot things out, and they started the fire in the building next to mine,” Webb said.

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