On the morning of October 24, 1997, a basement fire in a neighborhood grocery store at 400 Kennedy Street, NW, in Washington, D.C. claimed the life of Sergeant John M.Carter. Sgt. Carter had been assigned to the First Battalion of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department (DC Fire and EMS Department). He responded to the Kennedy Street fire as the officer in charge of the third due engine company, E-14.
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Fire at 400 Kennedy Street, NW Washington, D.C.
The first due engine company, E-22, was operating on the ground floor when E-14 (Sgt. Carter and his lineman) entered the structure through the front door to provide backup support. E-14 advanced to the middle of the store, stopped to extinguish fire advancing across the ceiling, and consequently never joined E-22. A member of Rescue Squad 2 who had been separated from his crew joined E 14. Conditions then changed dramatically, and the area in which E-22 and E-14 were operating became extremely hot. Sgt. Carter ordered his lineman to back out and tugged on the lineman’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder to guide the lineman’s movements towards the front door. The crew from E-22 also moved to exit the structure through the front door.
Immediately after the lineman from E-14, the member of RS-2 and the crew from E-22 exited the building, flames rolled through the first floor of the structure and an orange ball of flame shot out the front door. After exiting the building, E-14’s lineman reported to E-22’s officer that he could not find Sgt. Carter.
In an attempt to rescue Sgt. Carter, crews re-entered the first floor with two attack lines; a 2-1/2 inch line and a 1-1/2 inch line. By this time, however, the fire had burned through the floor in several locations and there were indications that the floor was in imminent danger of collapsing into the basement. They were unable to locate Sgt. Carter.
It took approximately two hours to extinguish the fire. Additional rescue attempts during this time had to be aborted because of the unsafe condition of the first floor. A fourth alarm and Mutual Aid Units from Montgomery County were necessary to provide adequate resources to the Kennedy Street fire scene. It was not until after the fire was extinguished that Sgt. Carter’s body was found in the water-filled basement. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.