Firewalls, Sprinklers Could Have Limited Fire Damage

Friday, February 9th 2007, 8:41 pm
By: News On 6

Friday’s fire at the Avondale Apartments was the second large apartment fire Tulsa firefighters had worked in the last 48 hours. Sixteen units were destroyed in Friday’s fire, but Thursday only a small section of apartments were destroyed because they had a concrete firewall built in.
News on 6 reporter Jennifer Loren reports that’s a luxury the Avondale fire victims wish they had.

Brandon Cherry is moving the few things he salvaged from his burned apartment to a friend's apartment across the way. He says he'll stay there until he finds a new place to live. All of Cherry's neighbors in their 16-unit building are in the same boat.

"It’s damaged, water damaged, burned, all the furniture and everything else is burned down," said fire victim Patsy Mathews.

Investigators say the fire started with a cigarette butt in an end apartment. When flames reached the attic, firefighters say they quickly spread to other apartments.

No one we spoke with at the Avalon Apartments has renters insurance, now they wish they did. But they never thought they would have to worry about fires because they say they are always careful.

"Someone else is breaking the rules and now you're in danger for it, and you have to suffer the consequences," Brandon Cherry fire victim said.

In Thursday's apartment fire at Somerset East, there was a concrete firewall that saved three-fourths of that building. Otherwise, all 24 units could have looked been destroyed.

The people at the Avondale Apartments say they have lost a lot, but they've gained a valuable lesson. And that is that they know what to look for next time they rent an apartment.

"A sprinkler system in either one of these scenarios yesterday or today would have absolutely prevented this from occurring," Tulsa Fire Department Captain Larry Bowles said.

Firefighters say neither apartment complex did anything wrong. Their buildings are up to code, but newer apartments are required to have sprinkler systems and any building with more than 16 units must have firewalls.

Fire safety is something Brandon Cherry says he will look for in his next home.

"Definitely check, you know, firewalls, sprinkler systems, I mean even a fire extinguisher. It could have stopped all this," Cherry said.

Firefighters say you should always ask apartment management about firewalls and sprinklers before you rent. All apartments built in Oklahoma since 2000 are required to have at least sprinklers.