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Firewalls keep apartment fires from going from bad to worse

While newer buildings are required to have firewalls and sprinkler systems, those codes didn't come about until the 70s, and old complexes don't have to bring buildings up to new codes.

Posted: Apr 30, 2018 11:49 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- Fires have ripped through some northeast Indiana apartment buildings in the last year, and residents are left to pick up the pieces, but firewalls can play a huge role in how much damage is done. 

In Nikita Cain's case, she was able to save most of her stuff after a blaze at Golfview Apartments back in March. She said she's finally getting her life back to normal, but that day is one she'll never forget. 

"I just kept praying and praying, and just hoping that everything would be okay," she said. 

Cain was first interviewed by FOX 55 the day she came home to her building on fire. 

"I pulled up. I seen the two individuals standing outside, screaming for help... So, I ran to the office, and told them to call 911, and they immediately called 911," Cain said. 

About a month later, Cain was able to go back in, and her apartment and belongings weren't as damaged as some others'. Assistant fire chief, Jim Murua, said that could be because of firewalls. 

"Firewalls are basically a wall that separates the building, and is a stable wall, so that in the event of a fire, or some other type of disaster on that side of the wall, it then lets that portion of the building able to collapse and keep that firewall stable and still standing," he said. 

But not everyone is so lucky after a fire. Murua said while newer buildings are required to have firewalls and sprinkler systems, those codes didn't come about until the 70s, and old complexes don't have to bring buildings up to new codes. 

"We have buildings that are built, and they're older buildings, so they may have been built in the 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s, so they met the codes at the time, but they don't meet today's standards," Murua said. 

Most apartment fires are found to either be electrical or accidental. That's why Murua said it's important to have renters insurance and smoke detectors. 

"Obviously, we as a fire department, would love to see all the buildings be brought up to the newest standards that are available out there, but we realize there's an expense to those standards as well," he said. 

Cain didn't have insurance at the time of her fire, but through her work, she was able to get assistance.

"My job has a Golden Corral cares program, and I actually applied for assistance, and the committee selected me, and I was able to get funding," she said. 

While Abigail Janicek said she did have insurance when her downtown Huntington apartment was destroyed in March of 2017. 

"They think it was electrical... We just started over. We didn't have anything," Janicek said. 

But Janicek said she doesn't even remember her apartment having smoke detectors at the time of the blaze, and if it weren't for her boyfriend waking her up, she might not be here today. 

"She had just bought the building...They were putting more smoke detectors in, but I'm not sure if we actually had one in the building in our apartment," she said. 

Murua said no matter how old your building is, being prepared for a disaster can save a life.

"It's said to say, but disasters usually prompt a lot of the codes that come into play," he said. 

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