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Thursday, July 19, 2012

FIVE-ALARMS IN ST. LOUIS, 3949 Lindell Blvd 07.17.201

A fire that destroyed a 197-unit apartment in St. Louis is stirring debate about the use of lightweight, synthetic building materials over brick and real wood.

About 100 people inside the complex got out. It took about 160 firefighters from the city and St. Louis County to put out the blaze.

The fire broke out Tuesday night at the apartment complex in the city's Central West End, near the Saint Louis University campus. No one was killed or injured but about 250 residents were displaced.

Less than an hour after firefighters arrived on the scene of a blaze at a Central West End apartment building Tuesday night, they were forced to evacuate as the top floor of the four-story structure began to collapse. The flames spread fast through the attic.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said, “The fire alarm systems worked.  Meaning the alarm system to tell everybody to evacuated.  Sprinkler system.  The building was sprinklered.  That was all intact.  Everything worked as planned,” 

Chief Jenkerson also called the fire a “perfect storm” with record heat leading to 200+ degree temperatures in the attic, which allowed the flames to cut through the walls “like a hot knife through butter.”


“As fast as it was moving and as hot as it was it might have just blown ‘em over and kept moving.  It was a very hot fire,” he said. “(The attic) had baked all day so I would venture to say it was above 200 degrees in that attic easily, and we think the fire started somewhere near the ceiling level so the fire was burning in the attic when we got there so it had a little of a head start on us.”

City officials confirmed that the four-story was structure was built to code, had working sprinklers and had "draft stops" that are designed to slow the spread of fire in the attic. Officials believe the fire started above the ceiling of a top-floor unit.

Still, Jenkerson expressed concerns about the building materials.

"Like every fire chief, I look at the (building) code every year," he said. "We have a risk perspective that's different from the building trade's. You've got to take the costs and weigh it against the risk."

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

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