District Heights fire leaves dozens displaced

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(Photo: Brianne Carter/WJLA)

Investigators are searching for the cause of a three-alarm fire in District Heights that left nearly 30 residents displaced.

Flames ripped through the Rochell Hall Apartments building in the 1900 block of Rochell Avenue around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Fire officials say flames were coming from every floor, including the attic, when they arrived on the scene. About 75 firefighters responded to the scene. It took an hour to put out the fire.

The fire affected 21 units and caused $500,000 worth of damage, forcing dozens of people to now look for a new place to live. Luckily, no residents were injured as they escaped the flames.

Resident Shanaira Harley says she barely had time to get out.

“I see smoke and I see fire on the other half of my building,” she said.

Harley was able to grab some clothes, but had to leave her "children" behind.

“I watched my dogs burn, I just don't know they were my kids, my kids,” she cried.

Witnesses say the flames were shooting from the roof, causing the third floor to collapse.

“I'm thankful, I hope everybody is OK,” said Resident Linda Pearsall.

Investigators say the fire started in a lower-level unit, but the cause is under investigation.

The Office of Emergency Management and the Red Cross are assisting those displaced. A temporary shelter has been opened at the Central High School for displaced residents.

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