The October death of a Georgetown senior in a Prospect Street rowhouse fire was caused by either cigarettes or a fallen candle, not an electrical short as originally believed, D.C. Fire Department officials said last week.
Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05) died of smoke inhalation Oct. 16, 2004, when his house at 3318 Prospect Street caught fire.
According to D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter, a December report said the fire started after either a lit candle was tipped over or cigarettes ignited furnishings. The report followed a secondary investigation after original reports had indicated that the origin of the fire was an electrical short in a furnace in Daniel Rigby’s (MSB ’05) basement room.
“There was a candle, an electric lamp and cigarettes at the point of origin,” Etter said Monday. “Investigators confirmed that the candle was being used at the time and there were people in the house smoking. They ruled out an electrical fault as the cause but could not rule out the candle or cigarettes.”
The December report came to light after a Washington Post reporter asked investigators about the results of the investigation last week. Etter said that it is standard practice for investigators to conduct a secondary investigation whenever a fire-related fatality occurs.
Georgetown university spokeswoman Laura Cavender said that the results of the investigation did not change the university’s view that the fire was a “tragic incident.”
“Of course the university will continue its efforts to educate students about their rights and responsibilities as renters in the District of Columbia,” she said.
Cavender also said that Georgetown would continue to work with government agencies to help keep students safe.
The fire prompted widespread inspections of housing in the Georgetown area after reports that Rigby’s home had numerous housing code violations.
Etter said in October that the house had bars over the basement windows, an excessive accumulation of combustible materials, inaccessible exit doors, obstructed fire doors and uncharged fire extinguishers.
The owner of the house, Carolyn Channave, did not return a phone message seeking comment Monday.
Gwen Davis, spokeswoman for the Department of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs, the District government agency which conducts housing inspections, said that the DCRA is still conducting inspections in the Georgetown area.
“We still get calls from students but we’re only inspecting now when students call us because we need to be able to gain access to houses,” she said.
Davis urged students to contact authorities if they felt their housing might be unsafe. She said that students would have priority if they identified themselves as attending Georgetown University.
By the end of the autumn inspections, 139 area homes had been inspected, nine houses had been closed and 54 students had been evicted from their homes, according to Cavender.
Cavender said that all of the displaced students “either accepted the university’s offer of on-campus housing, stayed with friends on or off campus, or found new places to rent.”
There is currently no one living in Rigby’s former home and its doors and windows remained covered by plywood panels onday.