Residents Question Apartment Safety Following Fatal Kalamazoo Fire

Posted at 6:44 PM, Oct 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-14 19:08:57-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A fire that killed a woman at the Village of Kalamazoo Apartments is still under investigation.

Family members say Daysi Sorialo died after fire broke out in her upstairs apartment on Lilac Lane.

They also told us her boyfriend was critically injured in the fire as well.

Some residents who live there say they were dismayed that they heard no alarms from the hallway or their apartments after the fire broke out.

“You’re under a lot of pressure when your adrenaline’s rushing,” said Jathan Carter, apartment resident.

In an effort to get his children out of the burning building, Carter sliced open his hand.

“I cut it punching out the glass to get to the fire extinguishers in the buildings,” said Carter.

He said he didn’t hear any alarms when it went up in flames.

“I wasn’t alerted by any lights or anything, I was alerted by my maintenance guy who was yelling, ‘Everybody get up’,” said Carter.

Neighbor Charles Irons told us that he didn’t hear smoke alarms either.

He woke up miraculously to his own alarm clock.

“For some odd reason…the alarm never goes off. It’s not programmed to go off,” said Irons. But, I woke up to that. I pressed the snooze button and was like, ‘What’s that about?'”

Irons lived right across the hall from Sorialo on the third floor where the fire started.

He said he got a funny feeling and checked in the hall.

When he opened the door, smoke came pouring in.

He said he slammed the door and ran for a window in a bedroom where he was able to yell to firefighters who got him a ladder so he and his fiance could climb down to safety.

Like Carter, Irons was also dismayed by the fact that he didn’t hear a smoke alarm go off.

“Not at all. Not one. I’m sure strobe lights and a loud alarm is supposed to go on anytime there was fire and there was none of that,” said Irons.

He said that lack of an alert disturbed him.

“Yeah, it does. If that was going off, people wouldn’t have been like, ‘Oh, what is going on?’  We would have known to get out really quick,” he said.

Although many residents reported they didn’t hear an alarm, Village Apartment managers defended the system and said it was working properly.

They explained that the fire alarms in the hallway are silent alarms which automatically alert an outside company called Riverside Security.

That company alerts the fire department and contacts the apartment complex management.

“They signal the fire department, 911, police,” said Kim Bailey, Site Manager at Village Apartments. “We’ve always had the silent smoke alarms.”

She showed us the control panel for the silent alarm system, which is located in the lower level and runs on a different system than the smoke alarms that are in individual units.

If someone had a little burnt popcorn, their smoke detectors would go off and it won’t bother anyone else, said Bailey.

Although a lot of people were bothered by the fact that they couldn’t hear an alarm from the hallway, managers feel that the system is adequate.

“The fact that this passes when the city comes out and does inspections and HUD comes out and does inspections as well, this has been adequate,” said Jonanthan Fennell, Village Apartments Executive Director of Property Management.

We checked the city’s last inspection of the complex which was in 2011. In the report we found more than 20 violations for smoke detectors in individual units in the complex.

For each violation the report read, “Required hardwired smoke detector is not working properly.”

Fennell said an employee was fired over failure to improve the smoke detector issue following the release of that inspection report.

“The 2011 inspection, that actually lead to the former maintenance supervisor here losing his job,” said Fennell. “Kim came through and  said those smokes are not what they should be even though he supposedly replaced them.”

The report also indicated those violations were corrected.  Kalamazoo City Building Official Bob McNutt said the complex didn’t have any current issues that they were aware of.

However, some residents think there needs to be more precautions taken.

“I think if the fire alarms worked, or at least made noise, a life could have been saved,” said Daniel Robinson, building resident.

“I would love to see alarms in every hallway,” said Carter. “Every floor should have an alarm. Each floor should be very loud and there should be lights flashing. If you hear it, you get up and get out of the building.”