Fire Marshal: Smoking sparked two Bellevue fires

Posted at 3:58 PM, Jul 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-29 19:14:23-04

Officials say both the fires that occurred in a Bellevue building since last Friday could've been prevented.

The Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office tells me that both fires at the Gateway Park Apartment building were started because of carelessly discarded smoking materials.  The first happened August 22nd in the west side of the building; the second on August 26th.

Now the building's been deemed uninhabitable, and the people living in the 24 units are forced out.

The Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition says more than 100 apartment complexes are going smoke free, meaning no smoking inside or right outside the buildings.  They say 70% of people they polled in Douglas County want smoke-free options.

“There have been many property managers and owners who have been inquiring about going smoke free,” said Jasmine Harris, the Clean Air Committee Chair with MOTAC.  “It really comes down to enforcement so there's questions about that and making sure that we can give that technical assistance when needed to help them to be able to enforce the policy they put in place."

Omaha and Bellevue both use the international fire code.  In 2006, it mandated sprinklers for all balconies at any newly built apartment complexes

Bellevue Fire Battalion Chief of Inspections, Mike Stucker, says deck fires usually travel upwards and sometimes into attics, and that's when it becomes very dangerous to the tenants below so deck sprinklers can save lives.

"In this case there's a delay in the alarms going on because there's nothing to sound the alarm unless somebody physically sees it and pulls the pull station, so that's one the issues we have. It takes us longer to get there simply because we don't know about it yet,” Stucker explained.

Bellevue FD says put smoke detectors in all heavily used rooms if you live in an apartment, and don't smoke on decks or use charcoal grills on them.