Baring Street fire remains under investigation
Issue date: 6/8/07 Section: News
Harsha Kothapalli and Vishesh Singh awoke in their 3616 Baring Street apartment shortly after 6:30 a.m. when their neighbor Sebastian Haunum warned them of a fast moving fire (May 25, "Students narrowly escape morning blaze", The Triangle)
While the cause of fire remains under investigation by the Philadelphia Fire Marshal's office, both Kothapalli and Vishesh say no alarm sounded in their apartment and that their only warning came from the approaching flames and the shouts from their neighbor.
"If he [Haunum] wouldn't have told us, we would have been trapped," said engineering graduate student Harsha Kothapalli.
Powelton Properties, who own the house, denies the claims made by the two and said that alarms were installed and did go off.
"I have no clue were that [Kothapailli's claim] came from," said general manager William Brown.
Brown explained that the house uses a "hardwired system" as a fire alarm. The system draws power from the main electrical lines and employs a battery backup in case of a building wide outage according to Brown.
A representative from Powelton Properties who responded to the fire scene said that the fire began on a second floor balcony outside the house, and only when the fire started burning inside did the alarms trigger.
According to Brown, the renter is required by the lease agreement to maintain batteries in the smoke detectors.
No specific language referring to fire alarms could be found in the lease supplied by Singh however the agreement says the tenant will "keep the property clean and safe" as well as "Tell landlord immediately of any repairs needed or of any potentially harmful health or environmental conditions."
Brown said that he witnessed tenants on the scene telling reporters that the alarms did in fact sound.
A review of coverage by CBS3.com and 6ABC.com revealed no mention of alarms.
Singh said that he did speak to television reporters at the scene and "told them that there was no fire alarm."
Alex Gresysa, a junior majoring in finance and entrepreneurship, who also lives in the building, arrived shortly after the fire broke out.