Sunday morning I sat up straight in my bed, wide-eyed, staring at the basement wall in front of me. I could smell it everywhere, coming through the walls – smoke was seeping in from somewhere.

I ran upstairs frantic and yelling. I was certain my house was burning down. My half-awake roommates and I stumbled around the house, turning off switches and checking outlets. We found nothing – until we looked out our back door.

A thick, grey plume of smoke rose from the back of our neighbor’s house, two doors down. My roommates and I ran to the front door and opened it to the world of chaos outside. Fire trucks, policemen, curious neighbors and our five shivering friends who had just escaped from their burning home met our eyes.

For the next six hours, perched on a crowded stoop across the street, we watched a hellish scene unfold. It was a nightmare that has undoubtedly forever changed all who knew and loved Daniel Rigby.

We were soon informed that his death was due to faulty wiring in the furnace and entirely preventable. Days later, I’ve found myself wanting to do something, absolutely anything, to ensure that this catastrophe would never be repeated.

The answer is alarmingly simple. Get your house inspected.

The inspection is painless, free, and ultimately essential.

My five roommates and I had been living in 3314 Prospect St. for the last five months. We considered it a “fixer-upper.” We knew there were rats under our deck, a family of raccoons in our trees, a homeless man living behind our fence, a mouse living in our basement and crickets and waterbugs seemingly everywhere.

We knew some locks didn’t lock, some windows didn’t open and most of the wires spiraling through our home led nowhere. But the bedrooms were spacious, the location was ideal, and the rent much lower than any other property available to us.

What we didn’t know until our inspection on Tuesday was that we were living in a potentially fatal situation. The house was ultimately condemned and a day later we were evicted from our house. We’ve now embarked upon an arduous, though certainly worthwhile, process of finding a new place, a safer place, for the duration of the school year.

This is not to say that this is standard procedure. Most inspections consist of a 30-minute review of the house, followed by a filed report which is then sent to your landlord. The report notes the violations that were discovered and gives your landlord a certain period of time in which to repair the house. The owner of the house pays for all the expenses, and you can live in your house, free of worry.

We all realize that it’s difficult to find off-campus housing that is spacious, affordable and in a decent location.

Regardless, before you sign a lease, you should contact the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to schedule an inspection of the property.

Being a student does not mean you have to settle for anything less than absolutely safe. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

All those close to Dan Rigby have painfully realized that there is no replacing a wonderful human being like Dan, and nothing can fill the gaping void that he has left behind. But we can hope that through his tragic death, we can now save the lives of countless others.

It seems that even in death, Dan is looking out for all of us.

Lauren Stephenson is senior in the College.

Contact the DCRA at (202)-442-4000 or at to schedule an inspection. Additional information can be obtained on Georgetown’s off-campus life website:

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