Massive Fire Rips Through Washington Apartment Building, Church

A massive fire ravaged a District of Columbia 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 Chief Dennis Rubin said the fire broke out about midnight, and responding crews initially focused on rescuing residents. The building continued to smolder hours later.

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.

"We're blessed that no civilians were injured," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said at a news conference.

Hundreds of firefighters from D.C., Maryland and Virginia responded to the five-alarm blaze, Fenty said. At least one firefighter suffered injuries that were not considered serious.

Flames that erupted from the roof of the Meridian Hill Park apartment building spread to the Meridian Hill Baptist Church, which suffered damage to its roof, authorities said.

Several streets, including heavily traveled 16th Street in northwest Washington, were expected to remain closed for much of the morning, snarling traffic in the area.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

The apartment building where the fire started has been plagued with numerous 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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