Fire injures 5 at high-rise for senior citizens Earlier practice drill aided evacuation

November 10, 1990|By Roger Twigg

Five residents of a senior citizens home on West 20th Street were injured, one of them critically, when a fire caused by careless smoking broke out yesterday on the 10th floor of the building.

Still, the toll might have been far greater if the residents had not practiced what to do in case of fire Sept. 26, fire officials said. Yesterday, they performed their fire drills smoothly.

"The residents seemed to know exactly what to do," said Captain Patrick P. Flynn, a Fire Department spokesman.

Yesterday marked the 10th time since 1985 that residents of the 21-story high-rise at 11 W. 20th St. have been forced from their apartments by fire, according to housing authority officials.

Officials emphasized that six of the 10 fires were minor and occurred in trash bins. They added that altogether the fires have caused about $250,000 damage.

Yesterday's fire occurred in an apartment occupied by a 71-year-old woman who had been moved from her 18th-floor unit Feb. 25, 1985, after a pressure cooker caught fire and caused $58,000 damage, said Zack Germroth, a housing authority spokesman.

The woman, Rose Brooks, was taken to Homewood Hospital yesterday. She was reported in critical but stable condition.

As fire alarms sounded, the nearly 400 residents of the building began the drill they had practiced Sept. 26. They went to their balconies, the rooftop or the lobby, as firefighters carried hoses up the stairways and attached them to water pipes installed for ** fire use.

Captain Flynn said additional alarms were sounded, in part, to get extra manpower to help some of the elderly residents from their apartments. It took the 90 firefighters with 29 pieces of equipment just over an hour to bring the fire under control.

Special fire ceilings and floors prevented the blaze from spreading to adjoining apartments, which had only smoke and heat damage, officials said. Damage was estimated at about $90,000.

Mr. Germroth said 21 people had to be temporarily relocated with their families or to another senior citizens home -- the Gilmor Homes in the 1600 block of Vincent Court.

Also injured in the blaze were Robert Phillips, 69, and his wife, Costella, 63, who were treated and released at Homewood Hospital; James Stanley, 70, taken to University Hospital with smoke inhalation and listed in good condition; and Hurlan Davis, 60, admitted to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in serious condition.

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