Teen falls to his death from fire escape

Teen falls to his death from fire escape on Uptown condo building

16-year-old Blake Fannin fell to his death while on the well-worn escape late at night; a friend with him was not hurt.


One of two teenage boys exploring a well-worn fire escape on the side of an Uptown condominium building fell four stories to his death, his father said Thursday.

On the weekend before he was to start 11th grade at Minneapolis Southwest High School, Blake Fannin fell early Sunday from what his father said was a fire escape that appeared to be in need of maintenance.

The seven-unit brick building, at 2501 Girard Avenue S., is about a block from where Fannin lived with his mother.

The ladder “swung out and he fell,” Kevin Fannin, who lives in Florida, said of the fire escape, which he has seen and described as rusted and “in bad disrepair.”

The father acknowledged that Blake and the other boy, who was not hurt, “probably shouldn’t have been doing what they had been doing,” but if the fire escape was in “decent shape, this wouldn’t have happened. … If they had a fire and they had to use it, no way.”

The building has two fire escapes, and both appeared well rusted Thursday, with chunks of metal missing. The ladder on the fire escape from which Blake Fannin had been on was jutting out at the top Thursday, but resident Vaughn Ormseth said the ladder was much closer to the building on the afternoon after the teen fell.

Resident Manly Zimmerman, an attorney, has been designated as a spokesman for the 100-year-old building’s occupants, and he had little to say about the circumstances surrounding Fannin’s death or the upkeep of the property.

“It’s unfortunate, I feel very badly for the family,” said Zimmerman, who added that “I’m not talking to you as a lawyer. I’m talking to you as a resident.”

Zimmerman said he’ll leave it up to the city to disclose the building’s maintenance history. However, owner-occupied condos such as this one are not subject to municipal inspection. There would be inspections required if the building included rented units.

“If any one of the individual condo units were rented, then that unit and the building would be subject to inspection,” said Mike Rumppe, the city’s deputy director of housing inspections. “That’s not the case here.”

Zimmerman said he was unaware that the building is not inspected by the city. He said, “We’re certainly going to do something about” the two fire escapes, though he was not sure yet what actions might be taken.

Kevin Fannin said Blake moved from Virginia to the East Isles neighborhood when he was 7 with his mother and embraced many athletic activities, most firmly basketball. He played on traveling teams in Minnesota and on squads near his father’s home in the summer.

A memorial fund established in Blake’s memory has been established with a goal of raising $10,000 to help pay basketball fees for families who can’t afford the cost. In less than a week, nearly $3,000 has been pledged.

“He didn’t believe city leagues should charge money,” Kevin Fannin said. “They may charge $25, but there are kids who cannot pay.”

While Blake’s home was in a “pretty affluent area,” Kevin Fannin was impressed that his son “had friends from all walks of life … from very poor areas and who were challenged in life. But somehow he brought them together.”

Along with his father, Blake Fannin is survived by his mother, Twylia Fannin, brother Eli Fannin, and stepbrothers Kalil and Akil Cole. A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, 900 Mount Curve Blvd., Minneapolis. Contributions can be made to “Blake’s Basketball Scholarship” at http://tinyurl.com/plczq56.

Bill aims to require fire escape ladders

Bill aims to require fire escape ladders for rental units

Posted: 6:04 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015

By Laura A. Bischoff – Columbus bureau

Landlords would be required to install exterior fire escape ladders for residential rental units on the third floor and above, if bills sponsored by local legislators becomes law.

State Sens. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering and Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, are sponsoring bills that would give rental property owners 180 days to add the ladders. State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, is sponsoring a similar measure in the House.

Lehner said property owners could meet the requirement with portable emergency ladders that are installed and kept in a case beside a window. The ladders, which cost a few hundred dollars, are tossed out in an emergency and people climb down to safety.

“As many colleges and universities resume classes, it’s important that we raise awareness about the dangers of not having a second means of egress in rental homes in our campus communities,” said Beagle in a written statement. He added that over the past 15 years, college students in central and southwest Ohio have perished in fires where a second escape route wasn’t available.

Beagle and Lehner sponsored a similar bill last year but it didn’t make it out of committee. The bills do not apply to hotels, dorms or buildings with fire suppression systems. Beagle said he does not know how many housing units the bill would cover.

The lawmakers started pushing the change to state law after two University of Cincinnati students from the Miami Valley died in a fire when they couldn’t escape from a third-story attic bedroom.

Ellen Garner and Chad Kohls’ only escape routes were a 36-foot jump from a third story window onto pavement or through a smoke-filled interior stairwell. They succumbed to smoke inhalation before firefighters could rescue them and later died.

The fire broke out Jan. 1, 2013 when a space heater was placed too close to bedding. Garner, 20, was a 2010 graduate of Tippecanoe High School and Kohls, 21, was a 2009 Centerville High School graduate. Ten people were in the house when the fire started on the second story.

Ohio Fire Marshal spokesman Bill Krugh said the marshal’s office does not take positions on pending legislation.

How Safe Are New York City’s Fire Escapes

How Safe Are New York City’s Fire Escapes, Really?

Fire Escapes - Bob Estremera.jpg
[Photos by Bob Estremera. More fire escape photos over here.]

The spotlight is once again on New York City’s ubiquitous, iconic fire escapes following the tragic death of actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste, a rising Broadway star who had recently finished a run as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. On Friday, the 21-year-old performer fell from a fourth-floor fire escape on an apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Police have determined that his death was an accident.

The tragedy led the New York Times to take a look at the role of the fire escape in New Yorkers’ lives—namely, as “storage closets, front porches and back gardens, a perch of one’s own above the bustle of the street.”

The Times offered a brief history of the fire escape: They were first added to buildings in the mid-1800s, and became a refuge for residents crammed into tenement buildings, who would use the iron perches as a place to air out clothing and mattresses, escape crowded dwellings, and even as beds in the summertime. But there have always been concerns about their safety and relative usefulness. From the Times:

Even then — to say nothing of now — fire professionals had their doubts about fire escapes. The National Fire Protection Association noted in 1914that they were often hard to reach; poorly designed and badly maintained; lacking ladders or stairs from the ground to the second floor; and blocked by residents’ possessions. (People often aired their mattresses and chilled their perishables there.)

When the NYC building code was updated in 1968, it banned fire escapes from new dwellings, preferring more modern safety methods like sprinkler systems and interior stairwells. And in recent years, they’ve begun disappearing from older buildings, too—in part, as we reported in April, because of aesthetics, but also because of safety concerns. When older buildings are renovated, architects are choosing to replace the fire escapes altogether: In April, Joseph Pell Lombardi called them “a detriment to the building,” in reference to two Soho buildings he’s in the process of revamping.

Even NYC historians are re-examining the romance of the fire escape: William B. Helmreich, the City College professor who wrote The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City, said, “This tragedy occurred because not enough attention is given to the dangersinherent in sitting on fire escapes.…A fire escape should be an escape from fire; it shouldn’t be an escape from reality.”

Security bars potentially harmful

Security bars helpful and potentially harmful


Wednesday August 19, 2015 11:17 AM
Security bars can help our family be safe, but did you know they can also trap you inside during a fire?

Although in recent years, deaths by fires have declined, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and percentage of fire deaths attributed to blocked exits because of security measures intended to protect occupants and their possessions.

The fear of being a victim of crime drives many people to install security bars and other devices on their windows and doors without considering how they will escape in the event of a fire.

While they can lock criminals out, home security bars can just as effectively lock residents in and keep firefighters out in an emergency.

Ensure your safety by following these tips when using window and door security bars in your home:

* Know two ways out of every room: one normal route through hallways and stairways and one alternative route through windows or onto the roof.

* Use emergency release devices that have been listed or approved by a nationally recognized research lab such as the Underwriters Laboratories inside all barred doors and windows.

Quick release mechanisms for security bars enable the user to push the bars open from the inside without affecting the security they afford from the outside. These devices can involve pulling a lever, pushing a button, stepping on a pedal or kicking in a lever on the floor.

* Practice your home fire escape plan and make sure that everyone in the household can operate the quick release mechanisms.

If young children, older adults, or people with disabilities need extra help with the devices, designate a member of the household to help them, and decide on back-ups in the event that the designated person isn’t home.

* Have working smoke alarms and test them monthly.

Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.

Building Declared Public Nuisance

Marseilles Main Street building declared public nuisance

The only three-story building in the Marseilles’ downtown area at 430-432 Main St. was declared a public nuisance by City Council commissioners Wednesday night.

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 10:16 pm | Updated: 10:54 pm, Wed Aug 19, 2015.

A Main Street building in Marseilles — the only three-story structure in the downtown area — was officially declared a public nuisance Wednesday night by the City Council.

By an unanimous vote, the brick building at 430-432 Main St. was deemed a nuisance after a recent inspection by Police Chief Jim Hovious, who informed the council in an Aug. 13 letter that he found the structure to be in violation of several city codes.

In the report, Hovious said the property is used as a commercial business with retail store on the first level with apartments above on the second and third floors.

The property currently has two tenants, with one of those reportedly in the process of moving out.

Hovious deemed the west side fire escape to be unusable and unsafe, leaving only an east side ground-floor exit available. He said many of the suspended ceiling tiles in upstairs hallways have fallen because of water damage. In one apartment, he said it appears the tenant had moved, leaving his belongings and food behind.

“As a result, it is evident that mice and or rats have been in the apartment,” Hovious said in his summation.

“The cooperating tenant reports that she has a complete infestation of roaches and mice,” he added, saying he has also received multiple complaints concerning insects and rodents from neighbors of the building.

Commissioner Gary Lewey said the public nuisance declaration would allow the city to send in structural, electrical, plumbing and other engineers to evaluate the building for possible future condemnation.

Commissioner Bob Davis informed the council the CSX Railroad will be fixing crossings next month, which would require temporary street closures on Milton, Chicago, Aurora and Sycamore streets. Davis said traffic would be rerouted around these areas during the work.

Commissioner Jim Buckingham told the council that hydrant flushing is planned to begin next week and that the city was sorry for any residents’ inconvenience.

Buckingham also questioned the council about why the city did not receive money from the Spartan Race organization, which charged $10 per vehicle for parking on city property during last weekend’s event. There was no discussion by other commissioners.

In other business, the council:

  • Appointed Logan Hoyte to the city’s Recreation Board.
  • Approved home business license renewals for Underhill Taxidermy and Fantasy Costumes.
  • Authorized a purchase contract for 1013 Catalpa St., a vacant lot the city would like to sell so the property could return to the tax roll.

Tenants evacuated from Hartford apartment building again

Tenants evacuated from Hartford apartment building again as safety concerns linger

HARTFORD — Tenants at the Spring Street Apartments were greeted by Hartford police and officials with the city’s Licenses and Inspections Department late Tuesday afternoon and told they needed to evacuate the premises.

A city inspector told Fox CT the building’s fire escapes were not up to code and the issue likely won’t be resolved for at least a week. Until then, tenants will stay at a Hartford Super 8 motel.

Residents like Kyle Hinds spent the night packing belongings into their cars in the rain. Hinds said the sudden evacuation was inconvenient not only because he had work early in the morning, but also because he has four children and doesn’t want to break up their routine.

City-ordered evacuations are nothing new to the property.

In December, a Spring Street Apartments tenant fell through the bottom of a fire escape and suffered injuries. City inspectors mandated all tenants leave the building because the fire escape was rendered inaccessible, thus violating city safety code. Residents had to stay in a motel for multiple days as Christmas rapidly approached.

“This is going to be filled with gravel,” Norberto Olmo, the property manager for the Spring Street Apartments, told Fox CT in December.

He was pointing to the hollowed-out area where the fire escape landing collapsed and added that it was not built right decades ago, unbeknownst to the landlord. Olmo, in that December interview, said all four of the complex’s fire escapes would be replaced with the help of an engineer and architect.

“They know it’s an emergency so they’re on it, they’re going to be on it,” said Olmo of the landlord, nine months ago.

The city official at the apartments on Tuesday said the fire escapes were torn down but are incomplete, so tenants should not have been allowed back inside.

Hinds said he moved in in March and while he was told about the December evacuation, he said he was never informed the fire escapes were not finished. He said he is frustrated but understands this second evacuation.

“You have to take it as it comes. Like I said, I have four kids and safety is everything with me. I don’t want the risk of having that over my head,” Hinds said.

Women Actually Invented Things

After posting the article below we found this in wikipedia…

I am curious where people got this information about Anna Connelly having the first registered patent for a fire escape in 1887. New York City building codes required exterior balconies and stairs (referred to as fire escapes in the code) already in 1860. And numerous patents for such exist prior to 1887, the earliest in 1860. The article needs reliable references. —Metro2008 (talk) 05:53, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

Well, after searching on the internet for about 5 minutes, I was able to obtain the patent number for Anna Connelly’s fire escape. I then when to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office online archive of full text patents and searched the number. As I suspected, she did not actually invent the fire escape, she invented a type of fire escape that is actually nothing like the exterior stairs and balconies that this wikipedia entry discusses. Her patent is for a bridge that connects the roofs of buildings. I am disturbed to find that she is noted all over the internet as the inventor of the fire escape. I am a woman and am all for promoting inventions by women, but we can’t give her more credit than is due. Clearly people need to check their facts, because once something ends up on the internet, it ends up being taken as truth. —Metro2008 (talk) 05:53, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

People Really Don’t Know That Women Actually Invented Things

Now’s your chance to learn.

If this video is anything to go by, New Yorkers need a serious refresher course on women in history.

In the video created by MAKERS, a host asks people on the street who made a certain historical discovery, letting them choose between the woman who actually did it and a fictional man. Unsurprisingly, most respondents assumed that the men were the creators.

“Hmm,” one participant says when asked who invented the fire escape, inventor Anna Connelly or ’90s heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas. “I’m feeling like [whoever invented] the first fire escape could be a woman, but is probably a man.” Spoiler alert: She’s wrong.

This lighthearted video reminds us that women’s contributions to history just aren’t as well known — something that seriously needs to change. Because #HerStoryIsHistory, too.

National Women’s History Museum
In 1872, Susan B. Anthony registered and ultimately voted in a Rochester, New York election. When it was discovered that she had cast a vote as a woman, she was arrested for “voting illegally” and brought to trial. She was ordered to pay a $100 fine. She never did.

Questions arise about evacuation plan

Questions arise about evacuation plan for new Paterson school location

AUGUST 10, 2015, 7:18 PM    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2015, 7:29 PM
Exterior of the new HARP Academy on Colt Street in Paterson.

Exterior of the new HARP Academy on Colt Street in Paterson.

PATERSON – Some local officials are questioning whether the downtown office building being converted to classrooms for about 400 Paterson high school students provides safe escape routes in case of emergencies.

The Paterson planning board signed off on the new building last week in a 4-3 vote in which members voting against the proposal said they were concerned about the evacuation plan.

Planning board member Nelly Celi said that if the main lobby exits were blocked in an emergency, the building’s occupants would have to climb down one fire escape down to second floors, cross a walkway to an adjacent building, go down another fire escape to street level and follow an alley to Church Street to get out.

“That’s a maze,” said Celi. “I just don’t think it’s safe.”

The school district is planning to relocate its HARP and YES academies to the office building, which is located at the corner of Colt and Ellison streets across from City Hall. For years. HARP has been housed in the old outdoor Paterson mall, a facility that itself was the target of state-issued safety violation, many involving slippery conditions in rain and ice.

Planning board member Eddie Gonzalez said he shared his colleagues concerns about the evacuation plans at the renovated Colt Street building. But he said he voted in favor of the proposal because he thought the conditions at the previous HARP site were more dangerous than those at the new location.

The new location still needs approvals from the state education department as well as the city fire department.

School district officials have a tentative $495,000 per year lease for the seven-story Colt Street building. They said the owner, 5 Colt Street, LLC, is installing all requisite safety measures.”

“The city code officials review and approve all drawings, and the building must pass all code inspections prior to occupancy,” said the district’s facilities director, Steve Morlino, in a written statement. “Significant life safety improvements have be incorporated as a part of the renovation of this building, and according to the architect’s calculations the occupant load is within the acceptable parameters.  In addition there is a new state of the art addressable fire alarm system installed as part of the renovation.”

District spokeswoman Terry Corallo said the Colt Street building has two exits at the lobby level.

“Students requiring special accommodations will be addressed by the school principal and incorporated into the fire egress plan,” Corallo said. “There are two elevators available at all levels as well as holding areas which provide a safe haven while awaiting fire department personnel.  The building has been retrofitted with fire sprinklers throughout.”

School board president Jonathan Hodges said he toured the Colt Street building and looked over the fire escapes. Hodges said he was told the landlord would be installed “re-fortified” fire escapes to replace the ones that were there previously.

Hodges said the district would not have to convert an office building into a school if the state provided Paterson with better facilities as well as the authority to enter into a lease-purchase agreement for HARP. “We’re forced to take this inadequate and desperate approach to our facilities,” Hodges said.

Another school board member, Corey Teague, said he had been concerned about the safety at the new building but was assured by district officials that there were two separate exits.

John McEntee Jr., president of the city teachers’ union, said the location was being evaluated by its worksite safety committee. “It certainly is not a good idea to have our students and staff using a fire escape,” said McEntee. “That would raise concerns for me.”

The Colt Street site has received approval from the city’s fire sub-code official in its building division, officials said. Paterson Fire Chief Michael Postorino said the fire department’s safety inspectors do not check new facilities until after the building offices issue a certificate of occupancy. For the new school location, the chief said the inspection would be done immediately after the certificate were issued.

Postorino declined to comment on whether he thought the evacuation plan was safe. “I’d have to see it all to be in better position to make that type of determination,” the chief said.
Celi said she thought the district ought to provide parents of HARP and YES academies with detailed information about the evacuation plan. “They should know about the building where their children are going to,” said Celi.

Should Buildings Still be Built with Fire Escapes

Should Buildings Still be Built with Fire Escapes?

Outdoor fire escape systems have been a familiar escape device for those living in high rise buildings for many years, but are they becoming obsolete? Buildings all over the world are beginning to lose their fire escapes and instead, are being built with internal fireproof staircases. This is due to the 1987 change in building code, which moved towards supplying safer fire evacuation methods for taller buildings and more common use of fire detection systems. While the new buildings codes brought about safer alternatives for emergency escape, some argue that taking away fire escapes is like taking away a piece of history.


Fire escapes have been in use since 1784 in England, but didn’t become popular until the mass urbanization of areas like New York City and Chicago. Building external fire escapes was much cheaper than building a somewhat “fireproof” internal staircase. However, as fire escapes grew in popularity, more and more  people started to use them for unintended purposes. In poorer areas of New York people would use their fire escapes to cook, clean clothes, and even sleep there during extreme heat. This would protrude the walkway and cause hazards for when actual emergency evacuations were necessary. Furthermore, fire escapes were rarely maintained, and many fell into serious disrepair.


The infamous Triangle Factory Fire of 1911 also proved that fire escapes were finicky in real live emergency use. In a first hand account, Rose Hauser spoke of what she saw during the fire,

“I looked around and I saw the flames coming in all the windows. The fire was in the  shop and was coming toward us. There was a fire escape at the windows near the freight running and hollering and people were choking from the heavy smoke…Before I went down the staircase I looked to the fire escape. I saw one woman climb on there and fall right over the rail.”

Triangle Factory on Fire- March 25, 1911

This shows just how poorly regulated fire escape were at the time, when it came to an actual emergency, the system failed to complete its job.


The code in 1987 prohibited the use of outdoor fire escapes on newly erected buildings and instead, outdoor emergency escapes were to be replaced with internal fire-proof staircases. These internal stairs were meant to be a safer egress alternative, even though in an emergency it’s possible that they could become inundated with toxic smoke. Many buildings also moved towards adding sprinkler and gas systems in order to suppress the blaze of a fire.


Despite the new building codes, the number of fire escape preservationists is growing and numerous preservation projects have taken place. These preservationists argue that fire escapes allow us to appreciate our cultural and architectural heritage, while also providing a unique space to enjoy, just as our ancestors once did.

Fire escapes have been a part of architectural and firefighting history for over a hundred years, but what once offered a solution for those stuck in burning buildings, are now becoming obsolete in light of new inventions and findings.

occupants forced to use a ladder to exit from the second story

Faulty Extension Cord Sparks Early Morning House Fire

 Ryan Burns / Monday, July 13 @ 7:46 a.m. / Fire!

At 0430 AM on 7-13-15, Humboldt Bay Fire Engines 8113, 8112, 8115, Truck 8181, Battalion 8104 and Chief 8101 responded to a structure fire at 3539 J Street. The occupants of the residence had been awoken by the fire and were forced to use a ladder to exit from the second story. All occupants were safely outside when fire units arrived. The first unit to arrive stated light smoke was coming from the second story windows.

The crew made access, found and extinguished a fire on the first floor. Additional units provided assistance with ventilation, salvage and removal of damaged wall and ceiling covering. Fire damage was confined to one room but smoke damage was throughout the entire residence.

No injuries were reported, damage estimate is $40,000. 17 firefighters responded, the fire was extinguished in 20 minutes with crews remaining on scene for 1.5 hours. During this time Arcata Fire Protection District covered and handled an investigation call.

The cause and origin investigation shows the fire was caused by a faulty electrical extension cord.

Humboldt Bay Fire commends the residents for remaining calm, having a fire exit plan and for evacuating the residence using a fire escape ladder.

Humboldt Bay Fire reminds all residents to ensure they have working smoke detectors in the living and sleeping areas of their houses and to have a fire exit plan.