Landlords must maintain fire alarms, extinguishers

Late Monday morning, Lamark Ferguson, a recent graduate, awoke to find his apartment complex on fire and knocked on the doors of his neighbors to alert them. Fire alarms in the building reportedly did not go off. He even tried to use an extinguisher, but found it was empty. Had the situation unfolded slightly differently, the consequences could have been tragic, even deadly.

To say this fire should have set of alarms in the building, as well as in the heads of students, parents and officials around the University, is an understatement.

And, to see this incident minimized or justified due to its timing, lack of injuries or the small number of occupants would be almost as disgraceful as fire extinguishers and fire alarms not functioning.

Thousands of students live in apartment complexes around campus every year and trust their landlords to keep them safe, a trust that now should be questioned.

There are health and building codes put in place for a reason. State law requires that all residential buildings have smoke detectors within 15 feet of every sleeping area.

Regardless of what happened to the alarms, landlords have a legal and ethical responsibility to maintain smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in working order.

Ferguson said that he reported the non-working fire alarms to Barr Realty, owner of the building, on June 8.

Owner Dave Barr said he wasn’t aware of Ferguson’s complaint, but that the company tries to respond to all complaints within 24 hours.

If Barr did in fact receive Ferguson’s complaint and chose to ignored it, they acted in a way that could have cost all six residents of the building their lives.

At least some residents in the building did not have renters insurance, so they have no source of reimbursement for their damaged property.

Many apartment companies do not even offer such protection, let alone that students do not know about renter’s insurance.

Sadly, many similar cases have had worse outcomes than yesterday’s fire. According to Campus Fire Watch, 100 college students have died in campus fires since 2000.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 65 percent of home fire deaths occur in residences without working smoke detectors.

Landlords and residents should ensure that the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in their dwelling are working properly.

Just because students are still in the process of learning to be adults doesn’t mean that building owners can become lax.

No resident should be taken advantage of.