15 apartment complexes, condo buildings found violating fire alarm requirements

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. -- Fire officials in Snohomish County said more than a dozen condo buildings and apartment complexes aren't updated with legally required fire alarms.

The compliance crackdown comes nearly a year after a fire killed a person in their Everett apartment on New Year’s Eve.

Snohomish County Fire District 1 Assistant Chief Tod Gates said his office has inspected dozens of properties since the deadly Everett fire. He said the goal of the new regulations is to make sure people can hear the alarm.

“If your neighbor or somebody down the hall has the fire, you may or may not hear their local smoke alarm going off,” he said.

Inspectors found 15 apartment buildings and condo buildings no longer have the legally required fire alarms.

Gates said the inspections were spurred after the deadly fire in Everett. The massive fire at The Bluffs on Evergreen apartments in Everett killed one person and displaced more than 100 people. Fire officials said the building didn’t have a sprinkler system, which allowed the fire to spread through the attic.

“It caused other folks to sort of go back and look at this issue,” said Gates. “These are facilities that were built in compliance at the time they were built, but may have become out of compliance due to new regulations.”

The inspections revealed five violations in Mountlake Terrace, five in Edmonds and the remaining five were scattered in facilities in unincorporated southwest Snohomish County.

Each property owner was notified about the new requirements via letter. Fire officials hope to prevent another disaster by making sure all residents can hear the fire alarm.

“It provides an opportunity for folks that might come out into a smoke-filled corridor early notification so they can get out,” said Gates.

Gates suggested that people concerned about their own buildings should contact their management office to confirm compliance.

Updating fire alarm systems can be expensive. Gates said his office plans to work with property owners to come into compliance within the next six months to three years.