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Bowser Administration Will Refer Kennedy Street Fire to DC Office of the Attorney General and the United States Attorney’s Office for Criminal Investigation

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

(Washington, DC) – Today, following a weekend fire at 708 Kennedy Street NW in which two residents died, including a nine-year-old boy, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District would be referring the matter to the DC Office of the Attorney General and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. These criminal investigations are in addition to the investigations already underway by the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (FEMS), along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

“Our hearts are broken knowing that this fire claimed the lives of two of our neighbors – one of them just nine years old. The District will not tolerate landlords who prey on vulnerable populations, operating unlicensed rental properties and showing no concern for people’s safety,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “My Administration is conducting a comprehensive investigation of the property owner to identify any other rental properties and whether they are housing people in dangerous conditions. Because of the circumstances that may have contributed to these deaths, I am referring the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DC Office of the Attorney General for criminal investigation.”

Before a residential property owner can legally rent out residential properties in the District, they must first obtain a business license from DCRA, which requires an inspection. In this instance, the property owner did not have the required business license or Certificate of Occupancy and there was no DCRA inspection of the property.

“On this sad occasion, I want to take the opportunity to remind District renters that they have rights,” said DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah. “Please reach out to us if you’re renting a property that does not have the necessary fire safety requirements. And when you reach out, please know that you can do so anonymously—we don’t want anyone to fear retribution from a landlord or worry about their immigration status. What matters is your safety.”

In the District, rental properties are required to provide all of the following fire safety measures:

  • Interconnected smoke alarms on every level and inside each sleeping room
  • 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 per year
  • At least one exterior emergency escape for every sleeping room below the 4th floor

If any of these items are not in place, tenants shoould call DCRA at (202) 442-9557 or dial 311.