At approximately 6:00 a.m. on November 13, 1997, a fire occurred in an occupied, four-story apartment complex in Bremerton, Washington, which caused the deaths of four residents (all aged between 75 and 91 years) and injured 12 others. Even though this was not a designated “elderly housing” facility, this fire is indicative of the high risk bracket that this age group occupies. The cause of the fire was determined to be either an electrical baseboard heater or an electrical outlet in one of the apartments. The apartment was normally occupied, but the occupant was not in the apartment at the time of the fire. The apartment complex manager was delivering newspapers to various units when he heard the smoke detector. He entered the unit and reported that smoke had filled the unit to within a foot of the floor; he then exited the apartment, leaving the door open.
Factors contributing to the loss of life and property in this incident include:
- Lack of automatic fire sprinklers
- The door to the apartment of fire origin being left open after the fire was discovered
- Inadequately protected means of egress
- Lack of a complex wide fire alarm system incorporating automatic detection