Fire shows benefits of ordinance

Bremerton Fire Marshall Scott Rappleye calls the March 21 blaze at the Admiral Manor Apartments in Bremerton eerily similar to the 1997 Kona Village fire that resulted in the deaths of four people.

Only this fire had a far different result thanks to an ordinance passed in 2000 by the Bremerton City Council that significantly strengthened fire safety standards throughout the city, Rappleye said.

“It was a real similar situation to the Kona Village fire, but this one only burned one unit,” he said.

The apartment building located at 115 Bloomington Ave. had been retrofitted with a new fire alarm system two weeks before the fire occurred, he said.

When the fire alarm went off early on the morning of March 21, four men – Howard Maxwell, James Plutt, Chris Eason and Michael Erhart – responded to the blaze.

Unlike the county which requires a 90 decibel alarm at the front door, the city requires a 70 decibel alarm at the pillow, he said.

“It’s like having someone honk their horn right beside your bed,” Rappleye said.

The men charged a standpipe and pulled enough hose to reach the fire and had the blaze extinguished when firefighters arrived, he said.

“Had the fire alarm not been installed, the fire would have gone down the hall and trapped residents in other units,” he said.

Because the alarm was in place, only one unit was burned, but there was heat and smoke damage down the corridor, he said.

In the corner of the burned-out unit was an oxygen machine and a power strip that was probably overloaded, he said.

Power strips are equipped to handle a couple of power surges before they begin to fail, he said.

“Sometimes you can see brown spots on them, but I’ve seen them burn through floors before,” he said.

While this is only one example of how lessons learned from the Kona Village fire have made a positive impact on safety in the city, Rappleye said he remains busy as he attempts to bring every building in the city in compliance with the city’s fire safety standards.

Once a building is inspected, its owners have 10 years to bring it in compliance with the city’s fire safety standards by doing such things as constructing separation walls, attic draft stops and fire alarm systems, he said.

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