City Desk

Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff’s House Burns Down

The Columbia Heights house owned by D.C. watchdog/activists Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff was badly damaged in a fire Friday night, which authorities told the Washington Post "wiped out" the home.

Brizill and Imhoff jointly publish DC Watch, an email newsletter that delves into the picayune details of District government and politics.

The two-alarm fire started shortly before 4:45 p.m., DCist reported. There was no immediate word on its cause. An interior wall eventually collapsed from the blaze, and a firefighter working the scene had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Brizill and Imhoff were, reportedly, not home when the fire started. NBC4's Jackie Bensen reported that Brizill was later put into an ambulance, though.

City officials had been after Imhoff and Brizill about the condition of the house, on the 1300 block of Girard Street NW, for years. In 2002, the home was put on a D.C. list of abandoned and vacant properties, even though they still lived there. In 2007, the District tried to condemn it. At the time, then-Loose Lips columnist Mike DeBonis reported, it was in bad shape: "Glass is missing from several front windows. The front porch is rotting away. The slate roof is bare and sagging in places. Gutters and trim have rusted into the brick façade. The entire exterior seems not to have seen a paintbrush since Home Rule." Brizill suggested that then-Mayor Adrian Fenty was trying to force her out of the home, which they bought in 1982.

By 2008, though, the couple had started repairing it to comply with city orders. Here's how it looked then:

Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff's House Burns

We at Washington City Paper hope things work out alright for Brizill and Imhoff, who have been invaluable, if sometimes persnickety, watchdogs of city government for decades.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Drez

    Good reporting.

  • Cap City Records Panhandler

    If the city had any balls they would have hired this duo years ago in some sort of IG capacity.

  • hoos30

    Irony overfloweth. Our city watchdogs, who bust DC's balls over every single tiny issue, lived in a house with so many code violations that it finally just spontaneously combusted.

  • Denise Wiktor

    I hope you can do a follow up on how we can assist, and the cause. I know Dorothy and Gary but not well enough to waltz up and know what they need. The records that have been lost in this fire are invaluable. I hope they are ok.

    Denise Wiktor

  • Tim

    This is what happens to a house that should have been condemned years ago. It was bound to happen considering the condition of the house and all of the hoarding that was occurring at the residence. These two obviously have no regard for their neighbors who have been significantly impacted by this fire. To boot they don't even have home insurance coverage!

  • Reader

    So the city considered it abandoned and vacant as far back as 2002, but these people still lived there? A falling-down property like this is a hazard to everyone in the neighborhood. It's reasonable to ask why the D.C. government didn't enforce the rules more effectively. Maybe they should have been covering their own case.

  • Dr. Dee

    Dorothy and Gary have been invaluable in their reporting. I hope that this tragedy does not stop their mission to keep our DC politicians on their best behavior.

  • mighty

    by records that they kept, do you mean trash?

  • notanewbie

    Is the city going to send them the bill for all the hours firemen and cops put in on this site, and for the demolition work that has been going on for a week and is still not finished? This whole thing was entirely avoidable... That's what city codes are for.

  • HowardCH

    Word is they are preparing a Discrimination suite against someone related to the fire. DC doesn't need hypocrites like this! What a couple of bums!