Building code violation played part in W. Knoxville fire

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – Sixty people are now homeless because of a West Knoxville apartment fire.

But in spite of a building code violation, fire investigators say everyone miraculously made it out uninjured.

According to the fire marshal, a building the size of the Liberty View apartments is required to have a fire pull alarm system so that an manually set alarm can warn other residents of a fire.

Unfortunately, Liberty View did not have one.

I pulled the fire alarm that they installed, but they do not work," said Krystal Halm, a Liberty View resident.

Other residents frantically pulled the fire alarm at several locations on the building to wake their sleeping neighbors after the fire broke out, but they ran into a similar situation.

“It was not hooked to an electrical system or anything else,” said Roger Byrd, Knoxville Fire Marshal. “It was just near completion."

Once inside, you could clearly see the system was not complete because there were open junction boxes with wires hanging from them.

According to Byrd, his office learned there wasn't a system at all after an inspection last year found exits blocked with building materials and a refrigerator.

"In that process, the inspector noticed us that they did not have a fire alarm system, and for that size apartment complex, that is a requirement," he said.

That inspection took place 13 months ago.

"We're never ok with any code violations,” Byrd said, “however we do have to work within the guidelines of the code.”

He also said they have a procedure to check up on code violations, but when it comes to timelines, they also have to work with owners and contractors to do the work.

"No one was harmed and that's the main thing,” said Crystal Hefner, the property manager. “ Buildings can be rebuilt."

According to Byrd, when the building is rebuilt, it must be fully up to code.

That includes smoke detectors, a fire alarm and sprinkler system.

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