Fire occurred March 2002 • Very large apartment building • “Garden Style” apartment • 3 floors, 24 units per floor • Fire was in the middle of the night • Started in one corner of the building • Building had 3 protected stairwells
Fire Inspections had been done • First inspection had been done about 30 days before the fire • An automatic door closer on the second floor in the southern stairwell had been noted on the inspection as having been broken • The arm on the top of the closer had its bolt sheared. • An inspection the day before the fire showed that there were no corrections made
The building was about this size. (This is next door to the fire building.) It goes back quite a bit from the street
Door closer from the same building, same floor, but away from the fire
This is the closer that was broken. The inspection noted that it was in this condition prior to the fire. You are looking into what should have been a protected stairwell
We knew the door was open during the fire because of the slant you see in the smoke stain on the door, and…..
This is the third floor door in the “Protected stairwell” where a mom, and her two kids came out during the fire. Mom collapsed on the top stair, and died.
Looking down the stairs from the third floor door in the last photo, you can see the shadow of mom’s body and the shadow of her 7 year olds legs on the landing below Son’s legs Mom’s body
If they had stayed in the apartment • They would have survived. The grandmother of the children tried to go out with them, and got scared, so she went back into the apartment, and waited. Fire crews took her off of the back deck with a ladder shortly after they arrived.
The consequences • The building owners plead guilty to a civil charge by San Mateo County. They were fined over 3 million, which was not to be paid by insurance money. They also had code enforcement activity on all 14 apartment buildings they owned in San Mateo county, and on 6 buildings in San Francisco. • The settlement with the family was in excess of 13 million dollars, though the exact amount was sealed by the court.
So when you inspect… • Remember that doors that need to self close, but don’t because they are propped open, or have been broken present a very real danger. • Fire Doors Matter!