WASHINGTON — Thursday marks one year since a fire tore through the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex, leaving more than 150 people without homes and their possessions.
Ronald Starks El had moved into the Arthur Capper Senior Public housing complex just two hours before the building went up in flames. All of his photography work and family mementos were lost.
"Everyone suffered from someone's neglects or irresponsibility," Starks El said. "That’s not right."
Authorities said they couldn't determine a cause behind the fire, despite a months-long investigation. The investigation found that the fire likely started on the roof, and while the sprinkler system worked, fire alarms and strobe lights didn't.
Organizations like the Legal Counsel for the Elderly scrambled to find permanent housing for the more than 150 displaced residents. Jennifer Berger said the huge effort helped to get nearly everyone in houses in just a matter of months.
"We all worked together to make sure that everybody was housed," Berger said.
Nobody died during the fire, but former resident Helen Douglas said 14 former residents have since died.
"We’re talking about seniors and I think maybe the stress accelerated that," Douglas said.
The family of Raymond Holton, the 74-year-old man who was trapped in his room for five days after the fire, is still upset.
"I’m so angry with the authorities for how they handled the situation because I had been looking for him and waiting for the last person to get off that bus," Angela Brunson, Holton's niece, said.
Holton has filed a $3 million lawsuit against Edgewood Management Corporation. Neither he nor his attorney, William Lightfoot, could be reached for comment.
Other residents told WUSA9 they're working with a D.C. law firm to pursue further legal action.
But some residents like Dorothy Hooper, who turned 100 years old this summer, said they’re just grateful for all the help they received from the community.
"At least I got out alive and that means a whole lot," Hooper said. "I don’t have nothing else, but I have my life."