An elderly man was found alive inside a Washington, D.C. senior residence complex five days after a three-alarm fire ripped through the attic and fourth floor of the building last Wednesday.
Authorities said the 74–year–old was discovered Monday morning as structural engineers were surveying the fire damage at Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing, local station WJLA reported. The man, Raymond Holton, was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
According to fire officials, Holton had been trapped inside his apartment since Wednesday, as his door was swollen shut from the heat and water used to put out the blaze. Police, firefighters and search dogs, along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, returned to the building five days after first-responders cleared the fire.
“If I had to use crowbars and construction workers to get into his door, he would have had to use them to get out,” said structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer. “There was no way, in my option, for him to get out.”
Kilsheimer said it took crews 10 minutes to pry open the door with crowbars and rescue the man. Authorities said they noticed water bottles on the kitchen table, adding that water and electricity to the building had been shut off.
“For somebody that’s been in that situation for as long as him, he seemed incredibly in good shape. From my perspective,” Kilsheimer added.
According to USA TODAY, Holton was in “incredibly good shape” and told crews he wanted to walk out of the building on his own. Officials said the elderly man also had a “sense of humor” despite being trapped inside his apartment for several days.
Authorities said they are now working to re-verify that everyone in the complex has been accounted for. Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser confirmed at a press conference that all tenants in the building had made it to safety, but now says officials “can’t say specifically what happened to this particular unit.” She added that 74-year-old Holton didn’t show up on at least one of the roll lists provided by the property’s management company.
City Fire Chief Gregory Dean added that crews were unable to do a second search of the building, as the walls and the roof started to cave as firefighters went door-to-door looking for residents during the fire. It’s unclear if crews checked Holton’s second story unit.
“I cannot answer [about] that specific apartment,” Dean said. “Again, we just know that when you’re pulling people out they may have missed the apartment. I just can’t answer that.”
Kilsheimer said Holston was a “very lucky man.”
Watch more in the clip below.