MIAMI – An early Sunday morning fire at the Miami Towers building managed by the Miami Housing Authority at 41 North Main in Miami could have been devastating.
However, thanks to quick thinking and fast response, what could have been tragic ended with no injuries and only minor smoke and water damages.
Many residents were evacuated from the 75 unit, seven-story building as a precaution. The apartments in the building are leased to residents meeting HUD income limits with age requirements of 62 years of age and or with a disability.
“It was quickly averted,” Miami Housing Authority Executive Director Mark McDowell said. “It started in a mattress and after they found it the fire department removed it.”
Some water damages did occur from efforts to douse the flames, but McDowell said the building maintenance crew would be able to make repairs.
“We have good maintenance men who will be able to repair the building. Water damage was very minimal and we’re still working on that. We had some dry wall damage and of course some ceiling damage below,” he said. “There were no injuries to speak of, really. Some residents may have coughed because of the smoke, but it was pretty much uneventful. It could have been a bad thing. We have all of our evacuation routes posted more than once on each floor. We go through evacuation routes at move in.”
Firefighters received a dispatch call to the Miami Towers at 7:02 a.m. regarding a fire on the seventh floor and arrived on scene at 7:05 a.m. Two units and two engines arrived and the firemen took the stairs and found smoke in the hallway of the sixth floor.
According to the Miami Fire Department’s incident report, the fire started on the sixth floor in apartment 601 by an occupant who fell asleep while smoking, starting the fire.
“A sprinkler system was activated and we found a mattress on fire,” Miami Fire Captain James G. Turner wrote in the report.
Miami firefighters removed the mattress and took it downstairs, and opened several windows to ventilate the building. Firefighters placed a sprinkler wedge in the sprinkler discharge to stop the water flow to avoid and mitigate further damages.
“They put a wooden wedge to stop the water flow. Those things do put out a lot of water,” Miami Fire Chief Robert Wright said. “They were able to get there quick and able to stop it quick. It was a quick response from our guys at the station, and with the building being sprinkled, they did a great job. Also, Larry, the maintenance man up there, pulled the pull station to set off the alarm which rings straight to a monitoring company to 911 dispatch”
Patrons of Alene's Restaurant just sitting down to eat also had to forego breakfast while the firefighters worked.
The building currently allows smoking inside residents’ apartments but new policies at state, federal and local levels may soon change to ban smoking to outside or designated areas for safety and health concerns.
“The resident wasn’t breaking any rules other than she probably shouldn’t have been smoking in bed,” McDowell said. “That’s just not something you should be doing.”
McDowell received several calls from the monitoring service notifying him of the fire alarm. The alarm system also sounded throughout the building and firefighters went apartment to apartment to offer assistance with evacuation, and residents warned each other, according to McDowell.
“Some slept through it,” he said. “There’s a loud alarm that goes off, so I’m hoping that maybe that will make a few of them aware if they need an additional type of alarm. I can’t go ask under ADA regulation. Some of the residents have buddies and will check on each other and go door to door.”
Firefighters train specifically for such events, according to Wright.
“We lay out hose and practice in training. For a multi-story residential building with assisted living, those are one of the hardest responses to determine where it’s at and what it is, and they did a great job,” Wright said. “And it’s good that those types of buildings have to have sprinkler systems because that catches it in the incipient phase and it helps everybody.”
McDowell is very appreciative of the Miami firefighters and very grateful no one was injured.
“These firefighters are top notch,” he said. “The residents were out of their apartment for just as short as time as possible. Overall it was handled very well and I’m just glad no one was seriously hurt because it could have been disastrous.”