D.C. Fire Forces About 200 From Homes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fire ravaged an apartment building overnight, forcing the evacuation of several neighboring buildings and damaging a church.

No residents were injured as flames engulfed the four-story building in the city's Mount Pleasant neighborhood, but about 200 people were forced from their homes, authorities said.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the fire broke out shortly before midnight Wednesday and destroyed at least half the building. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Some people climbed down fire ladders, while firefighters carried others out of the building, authorities said. Many people were loaded onto buses to stay warm.

"I only grabbed the children, who had no shoes, no anything, and we ran down the stairs," said building resident Abigail Escobar, who fled with her two young children.

Hundreds of firefighters from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia responded to the five-alarm blaze, which smoldered hours later Thursday morning, Etter said. One firefighter was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation.

Flames that erupted from the roof of the apartment building spread to the Meridian Hill Baptist Church, which suffered roof damage, Etter said. Other nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution but were not damaged.

The apartment building has been plagued with electrical, plumbing and infestation problems and has been fined by the city, D.C. Council member Jim Graham told WTOP radio.

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