Fire Alarm Fails in Afternoon Apartment Fire

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Thursday afternoon Half Moon Lake's maintenance manager Robert Melgaard discovered an exit sign had caught fire on the ground level of the complex. He quickly pulled the fire alarm to sound a warning to the tenants, but discovered that system wasn't working. So, he pounded on doors and managed to get all the tenants outside.

"There's a good possibility that we would have had injuries and possibly loss of life, the fire was in a closed wall in a ceiling area so it would have had time to grow," Fire Inspector Janet Harter said.

When firefighters arrived there was flames were extending to the second floor and smoke was filling the hallways on all three levels. Harter says although the flames were extinguished quickly, it took crews over an hour to clear the smoke.

She says no one was hurt, but the Fire Department is concerned about the alarm system failure.

"Is it right? Should they have known their system? Yes by all means, that is your responsibility as a property owner, as a property manager... you do need to know your systems and you do need to be testing those and checking those," Harter said.

She says in Eau Claire, at a bare minimum building owners must abide by the National Fire Protection Association's NFPA 1 fire code, though facilities like hospitals and nursing homes tend to have additional restrictions.

Still, she says alarm system failures are common because the building owners are responsible for their own documentation and the fire inspectors can't check every individual.

The owners of the building have no comment at this time. Harter says the investigation is ongoing.