Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Fire marshal: Apartment where fire broke out lacked working smoke alarm

By Debbie Kelley Published: March 21, 2014

Smoke detectors weren't working in the apartment unit where a blaze ignited Wednesday, trapping a handful of residents elsewhere in the complex and forcing firefighters to rescue people through apartment windows, a city fire official said Friday.

The revelation comes after residents gave conflicting reports on whether fire alarms sounded in the Devonshire Square Apartments when the fire broke out.

Chris Cooper, the city's deputy fire marshal, downplayed any concerns of wrongdoing on the part of apartment managers, who say they inspect the alarms every six months. City fire codes mandate that apartment managers inspect fire alarms once a year.

Fire officials are unsure why the alarm in the unit where the fire broke out never sounded. "We often find that tenants will take the battery out to put it in other electronics, or they burn the food cooking dinner and they take the battery out," Cooper said.

The apartment complex has no building-wide fire alarm system because it was built in 1971, before fire codes mandated such safety measures, Cooper said.

Colorado Springs firefighters try to inspect apartment buildings' fire alarms once every three years, Cooper said, and the city found no violations at Devonshire Square during its most recent inspection in September 2012.

Investigators will review the apartment complex's safety records in the coming days to ensure they performed the required yearly checks, and a building-wide safety review will take place sometime in the next week, Cooper said.

"There's nothing glaring at this point that gives us any great concern" that citations against the property managers are be needed, Cooper said.

Firefighters used ladders to rescue eight people from windows and assisted another seven out of the complex at 2770 E. Uintah St., according to the Fire Department.

More than 100 people were displaced from the north wing and offered shelter and food through the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross. he nonprofit opened a shelter at the First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave., Thursday morning, and it will remain open until it is no longer needed, spokesman Bill Fortune said Friday. The shelter accommodated three residents overnight Thursday and assisted 18 families with lodging, food or clothing or all three, he said.

Discover Goodwill is offering $20 vouchers for those impacted by the fire, and Cross for Losses, a nonprofit that originated after last summer's Black Forest fire, has provided donated food.

To receive assistance, people need to be on the residents' list of the apartment complex or show proper identification.

Sixty-two firefighters and support workers responded to the call that came shortly after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Nine people were treated for minor smoke inhalation and three were taken to local hospitals.

On Friday, firefighters valued the fire's damage at $188,015. The cause remains under investigation.

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