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Building fire highlights challenges of evacuating high rise buildings
Building fire highlights challenges of evacuating high rise buildings
Building fire highlights challenges of evacuating high rise buildings

Published on: 09/18/2023


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) -- What started out as a kitchen fire lead to the evacuation of hundreds of units at the 505 Nashville complex Sunday, shedding a light on the added challenges of clearing a high rise building during an emergency situation.  

Roughly 350 units were displaced after power had to be cut off, following sprinklers that sparked an electrical fire. Resident Jackson Schlossnagle stopped by his unit Monday to pick up last-minute items before spending his second night away from home. He recalled getting evacuated from his apartment on the 21st floor. 

"Definitely a little scary being that high up, but just follow the stairs, follow the railings and you'll get down eventually,” Schlossnagle said.  

The Nashville Fire Department initially responded to a kitchen fire Sunday morning caused by a wicker basket being placed on a stove, according to Public Information Officer Kendra Loney. Another fire ignited as water from the sprinkler system hit electrical panels several floors below. 

“The issue here that some might find is that when a fire alarm happens in a high rise structure, the fire alarm is only initiated on the fire impact floor, the floor above, and the floor below,” Loney explained.  

Without an elevator, fire crews had to climb multiple flights of stairs to notify residents on each floor. 

“There are 528 units in this 45-floor building and our crews had to access those floors by the stairs. Those stairs are locked interiorly, so as they were going up those stairs, they had to get keys from property management and access those by keys,” Loney said. 

Safety consultant Ruth Cante weighed in on the situation, adding that firefighters are trained to divide and conquer while working to clear large buildings like 505 Nashville. 

"Having so many floors and so many units probably occupied, that's what's the challenge,” said Cante, who owns the C&F Company. 

Between apartment buildings, high rise hotels, and looming office buildings lining Nashville’s skyline, Cante said this event highlights the importance of having an evacuation plan.  

"Just be aware what those steps are, because that way you know what to do and you can help the first responders do the rescue and properly evacuate the building,” Cante said.  

Nashville Electric Service told News 2 their crews were on scene Sunday to assist, and 505’s building administrators would be the ones to reconnect the switchgear.

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