D.C. police officers returned to the scene of a fatal fire to secure it after drugs, including powerful controlled narcotics, were found in the debris.
News4 found pharmaceutical bottles filled with pills and loose pills strewn about the debris on the ground behind the house in the 700 block of Kennedy Street NW. The drugs included hydrocodone, an opioid; diazepam, a controlled narcotic; and antipsychotics.
“We were actually more interested in what the cause of the fire was,” D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean said. “So you’re not going to see us coming out and going through what’s on the ground. So I’m going to assume we didn’t see it or recognize or anything else.”
The fire broke out Sunday morning, killing two people, including a 9-year-old boy.
First responders were hampered in their efforts to reach the screaming victims trapped inside because of the illegal conditions, including a locked gate inside the house that firefighters had to cut through.
“There is no amount of cheap housing that’s worth a losing a child,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
After the fire, building inspectors found multiple code violations, including bars on doors, not enough exits, no working smoke detectors, no sprinkler system and inadequate lighting.
“So you look at all these issues, these are issues that could have been prevented,” D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Ernest Chrappah said.
The fire is being investigated by federal and local agencies. Bowser asked prosecutors to look at the possibility of criminal charges against the owner.
The house was registered as a pharmacy. It was not licensed for any type of residential use, according to D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).
The building was divided up into dozens of tiny living spaces, sources told News4.
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A second home in Northwest D.C. that public records show is owned by the same person has multiple no trespassing signs posted in the windows. It is listed as a pharmaceutical outlet as well.
Authorities have yet to determine an official cause of the fire.
DCRA says landlords are required to provide the following for residents:
- Interconnected smoking alarms on every level and inside each sleeping area
- At least one working fire extinguisher
- Carbon monoxide detector
- Exits, including doors and windows, that can be opened from the inside without the need for keys or any special knowledge or effort
- Electrical outlets, switches and fixtures that work properly
- For high rise buildings, a fire safety evacuation plan, along with fire drills at least once every year
- At least one exterior emergency escape for every sleeping room below the fourth floor
Residents can call DCRA at 202-442-9557 to report issues.