Denver Tickets High Rise: No Fire Drills

DENVER --

Denver firefighters issued Francis Heights a summons for not holding routine fire drills after an elderly woman died in a fire there Monday night.

The unidentified woman died in the high-rise complex Monday night, and firefighters said rescue efforts were hampered because residents did not know the evacuation plan.

They opened their doors and went into the smoke-filled hallway, and that could have been a fatal error for those people, said Lt. Phil Champagne.

The property manger, Cathy Swainson, said an evacuation plan is posted on the first floor and published in the residents handbook.

However, she said they have not done drills in the past because firefighters have told them there would be too high a risk of injury or liability.

However, regulations require them to hold four fire drills a year.

That was just brought to my attention. Weve worked with the fire department before and it was never brought to my attention in the past, said Swainson. We are looking to safety in the future. Its not something we are going to ignore. We will be addressing this issue.

The fire department also found several smoke detectors in the hallway on the 10th floor did not go off, and Champagne said they would investigate that.

In the past, the fire department conducted safety drills, but had to stop because of budget cuts. However, property owners can pay several hundred dollars to have firefighters conduct tests and provide a review.

Both office and residential buildings must undergo the quarterly safety reviews according to fire officials.

Champagne said they are still investigating the cause of the fire. It broke out in an apartment on the 10th floor around 9 p.m. Monday night, and spread quickly, firefighters said, because there was a heavy debris load in the apartment.

Four other people were treated for smoke inhalation, firefighters said.

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