DIPLOMATIC 911: Kathy Kemper’s VIP neighbors to the rescueBy The Reliable Source as published in The Washington Post | Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A house fire, an absent family—and VIP neighbors to the rescue.
Kathy Kemper, a longtime D.C. tennis coach, was in California earlier this month when her cell phone started buzzing: Her Wesley Heights home was in flames. As firetrucks raced to battle the fire, Kemper—coach to local politicians and diplomats and a fixture on the social scene—reached out to neighbors for information and help.
One of the first on the scene: Eva Hafstrom, wife of Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafstrom. She’s a friend and client of Kemper, but also—who knew—a former Stolkholm police officer: A “very can-do, hands-on, seriously operational person” the coach told us Monday.
Hafström raced to the house and began coordinating with the firemen and police. Wearing Wellies, a thick raincoat, and a flashlight, the diplomat’s wife was allowed to enter hours after the fire was extinguished. In the pitch dark, with water and smashed glass everywhere, she carried out clothing and art for safekeeping. “I brought some of the ballgowns home with me, so they were saved,” said Hafström.
It was a rare bright spot in the disaster, said Kemper: “I got a kick out of her because nothing fazes her.”
Another helpful VIP neighbor: Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Strømmen (his wife is another client of Kemper’s) who came by to check on the wine cellar. “He thinks it’s probably going to be okay,” she said.
Officials believe the fire was triggered when a housekeeper cleaning Kemper’s fireplace dumped three-day-old ashes in the trash not realizing there were live embers; the wind blew sparks onto the side of the house, setting the second and third floors ablaze. The family is moving into a condo.