High-rise fire prevention addressed locally


After the death toll in the London high-rise fire rose to 79, News 5 took a closer look at how our local high-rise operators are prepared for fires.

More than 25 years ago, on Christmas Eve, the John Sevier Center in Johnson City was engulfed in flames.

At that time, there were no sprinklers installed in the building to fight the fire and 16 people died as a result.

Today, fire codes have changed and the building has updated.

"This building was built in the 1900's. Early 1900's didn't have fire codes that said you had to have sprinklers. But the fire that happened here actually changed a lot of the fire codes on buildings that were not grandfathered in so they had to start installing sprinklers." Explained the Property Manager, David Bowser.

Bowser was there the night of the fire in 1989. He said he now holds monthly fire drills for residents and has constant contact with fire officials.

"Like I said, we work really close with the fire department, all of our crews, so that if we ever had a main alarm of another problem, everybody knows what they need to do. " Bowser continued.

The Assistant Fire Chief of Bristol, Tenn. agreed it's important to work closely with high-rises.

"We usually conduct drills at those locations to try to make more of the operators of those facilities more aware of fire safety issues, as well as the resident."

Charlotte Duncan is a resident at Leisure Park Towers in Bristol, Va.

She feels the high-rise is extremely prepared.

"Every apartment has at least two smoke detectors and one smoke alarm. And when the alarm goes off... a strobe light comes on and a 'beep beep beep' so if you are deaf you would see the strobe light and know that something is going on." Duncan said.

Nationally, fire codes are updated every three years, and after the London fire, there will be new regulations as soon as next year.