News 4 investigates how five-alarm fire spread so quickly - KMOV.com

News 4 investigates how five-alarm fire spread so quickly

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By Belo Content KMOV By Belo Content KMOV

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Tuesday’s fire in Midtown spread so quickly, it had many people- including firefighters- wondering how a new building could burn so fast and if it had all the fire barriers required by the city code.

News 4 went to city hall and got the permit records for the building to check if it was up to code.

The building itself is just about 5 years old. It’s one of the newer apartment buildings in the city, and by most assumptions one of the safest.

And according to the inspection documents we obtained, the building was as safe as the law allows.

“This building we pulled all the reports it was up to code, it had a working fire alarm system which was inspected, working sprinkler system,” said Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.

Both the city’s building division and the fire department signed off on the building, saying the Dallas-based construction firm had met all the codes.

Fire officials says they went back today to double check, and according to the fire chief, the fire walls protecting the apartments were in place and draft walls- barriers designed to slow down the flames- were in the roof.

But in this case, those draft wall barriers didn’t seem to slow down the flames at all.

Chief Dennis Jenkerson says new lightweight building materials are more flammable that traditional construction, and last night’s windy, hot and dry conditions combined to create disaster.

“Like I said before, this was a perfect storm,” he said. “The heat, the day and the attic and this got a jump on us.”

Because of the conditions, Jenkerson says he isn’t surprised the draft walls didn’t hold.

“Not with the intensity of the fire and the lightweight construction.”

One thing that did seem to work well was the evacuation of the building. In fact, documents do reveal some changes were required for the exit lights in the building.

The chief also indicated this fire may ultimately lead to more discussion about the city’s building code and whether updates and tougher restrictions are needed in the future.

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