Building lacked extinguishers

By Dave Gomez

There were no fire extinguishers available at the 138 Sherman Place fire Oct. 8.

The grease fire in the kitchen spread to three other residences, causing $135,000 in damage and rendering the building uninhabitable.

The homes fell under building codes that did not legally require them to have fire extinguishers, said Reuben Nelson, assistant chief of the DeKalb Fire Department.

“We highly recommend [extinguishers] but it’s not enforceable,” Nelson said. “Although there should be fire extinguishers in every place, there’s kind of a technicality here involved.”

Nelson said the four residences did not meet the fire code’s definition of apartments, which would have required at least one fire extinguisher in each kitchen.

A concrete firewall separates the building into four separate fire areas and a ground level exit means there are no shared stairways or hallways, Nelson said. Instead, the residences are considered townhomes, which fall under international residential codes and not fire codes.

However, Nelson said providing homes with fire extinguishers is common sense.

“Any building owner should supply a fire extinguisher, particularly in the kitchen area,” Nelson said. “That only makes sense from a stance of protecting your property.”

Property was not the only thing damaged in the fire; The American Red Cross has helped restore the people’s lives in its aftermath.

Providing aid for families displaced by fires has been challenging, said Todd Mikesell, services coordinator for the DeKalb County chapter of the American Red Cross.

“Financially, we could use any help we could get,” Mikesell said. “We have been overwhelmed with fires recently. There’s more than usual for this time of year.”

DeKalb has seen five structure fires since late September.

The Red Cross provided aid for five adults and 10 children who were affected by the Oct. 8 fire, Mikesell said.

Aid included providing clothing, food, medicine and temporary housing, Mikesell said, as well as contact information for other services.

For more information about the DeKalb County American Red Cross, call 756-7339 or visit