Fire Officials Talk About Building Codes

Knoxville (WVLT) - If you or someone you know lives in an apartment building, you would certainly want all the safety features available in case there was a fire. We examine one apartment complex in particular after a major Monday morning fire that sent two firefighters and two residents to the hospital, and left others out in the freezing cold.

Letisha Moore has two cousins that live in Townview Towers Apartments. She got a call from one of them around 1:30 in the morning saying their building was on fire. Numerous firefighters responded, but there were no sprinkler systems to help put out the fire.

The reason?

Townview Towers was built in the mid to late sixties. At the time, they weren't required and are still exempt.

"Fire code gives them an option of retro-fitting them or coming up with a life-safety evaluation plan, which all the high rises that are not sprinkled in Knoxville do have that plan in place," Fire Marshall Chief Roger Byrd said.

The life safety plan means engineers determine the buildings' safety through it's construction. Then a fire alarm system is installed, but sometimes even that's not enough.

"Since the building was block walls on all the apartments, it holds the smoke and heat in. Even the corridors which is for evacuation purposes was very difficult for firefighters to assist people to evacuate," Knoxville Fire Captain Darrell Whitaker said.

When Townview renovates, even rebuilds following this fire, it will be required to conform to the current law established in the 1990's, requiring sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in each unit.

In the meantime, firefighter James Rickett is recovering in Vanderbilt's Burn Center with burns to his face and neck. Firefighter James Ellis was also transported to UT Medical Center. He is now home.
Two residents were also taken to UT.

It's incidents like these that remind us these fires can happen to anyone, anywhere, but it's our responsibility to keep our family safe.
As the investigation continues into the fire, several of the residents are being moved to other parts of the building.