Alarm company finally calls for firefighters two-hours into deadly Georgia fire

The fire that ripped through an Evans, Georgia (Columbia County) retirement community killing one person and injuring two others was discovered by residents around 3:00 a.m. Tuesday. News reports indicate the company responsible for monitoring the fire alarms in that building, Security Central, didn’t finally report the fire until more than two hours later. Then the alarm company called again minutes later to report that 14 smoke alarms were now sounding. At that point a Columbia County 911 center call taker told the security company, “There is no point in more signals. That building has been burning for two hours.”

The building is just six-months old, opening in November. In addition to the fire alarm monitoring issue, questions are being raised about how the fire spread so far and did so much damage in a modern sprinklered building.

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County officials tell has said Marshall Square passed all its safety code requirements.

NBC 26’s Kasey Greenhalgh obtained more than 1,400 pages of inspection reports. It says all building codes were met. Some of those codes include smoke alarms, and signals to and from Security Central and the sprinkler system.

Some residents have told NBC 26 that sprinklers never went off around their apartment. Paul Scarbary with Columbia County’s Development Services has one theory of why.

Paul Scarbary, Columbia County Division Director of Developmental Services

“You could have where the heat rises you know where the fire is would rise to 150 degrees per say and would set off those that were in the area where that temperature has reached that degree. You may be down the hallway 150 feet. Those temperatures say 80-90 degrees wouldn’t set off those sprinkler heads,” said Scarbary.

NBC 26, Augusta-Aiken, Here for You

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Valerie Rowell, Columbia County News-Times:

(Fire Department Bat­talion Chief Jeremy) Wallen said the facility had an active sprinkler system. The sprinklers, he said, are typically activated by heat, which is why some were activated while others were not.

“I can’t speak to what was physically going on inside the building,” Wallen said at a news conference Tuesday. “I know, at some point, the sprinklers were functioning. I don’t know what time.”

Night concierge Zack Freehof heard the fire alarm sound just after 3 a.m. Tuesday and checked the panel to see the source of the alarm, according to his father, Jeff Freehof, who also runs the dining area at Marshall Square. He said his son found the billiards room filled with smoke and called 911.


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