South Montgomery County Firefighters responded to a fire alarm just around dinner time Wednesday at the Rayford Edge apartments, located at 25650 I-45 South. When the first unit arrived they found that a cooking fire had started in an apartment in building 7, but was quickly extinguished when a fire sprinkler in the kitchen was activated by the heat. The occupant reported that he had been cooking when cooking oil ignited a fire on the stove and began spreading smoke and heat throughout his apartment. Before he could even call 911, the building’s fire sprinkler system activated and contained the fire to the top of the stove.
Firefighters checked to make sure the fire was out and cleared up the smoke in the apartment before turning the building back over to management. Fortunately, for the other residents and the building’s owner, the building had been equipped with a fire sprinkler system after it was destroyed by a previous fire. Many older apartment complexes were built before modern codes required them to be protected by fire sprinklers. In 2008, Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court adopted a County Fire Code after a series of disastrous fires and that code requires fire sprinklers be installed in all new multi-family buildings, including buildings like this one that are modernized or rebuilt after previous fires. Had the fire broken out in any of the other existing buildings in the complex that are not equipped with fire sprinklers, it would undoubtedly have spread further and led to extensive damage, risking the lives of residents and firefighters.
The Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office has been working with owners of older multi-family complexes to bring them up to modern safety standards during major renovation projects. Two of the more dramatic examples are taking place at the Woodglen and Holly Creek Apartment complexes in The Woodlands. Both are undergoing renovation, and ownership is committed to installing fire sprinkler systems in every building in both complexes after past fires have left residents homeless or worse. The vast majority of the nearly 3000 annual fire deaths in the Nation occur each year in residential property, with multi-family buildings at higher risk due to the number of occupants and sheer building size.
While fire sprinklers are the best protection, and required in all new multi-family construction, tenants should make sure that there are working smoke alarms in every bedroom, hallway and living area. Under State Law, Texas Landlords are required to provide working smoke alarms in all residential rental property. Tenants are responsible for testing them, replacing batteries as needed and may not tamper with or disable any fire protection device, including fire sprinklers and smoke alarms.