Deputy fire chief: 3 factors contributed to massive Fairfield fire that displaced 18 people

Three factors contributed to the destruction of an apartment building, one of which was a late call to 911, said a Fairfield deputy fire chief.

On Friday afternoon, more than 18 residents were displaced from a Villages of Wildwood apartment building in the 80 block of Brittany Lane. Smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away, and it took crews about three hours to contain the fire but more than 24 hours before crews cleared the scene at around 6 p.m. Saturday.

Forty-four Fairfield firefighters and multiple neighboring departments responded to the rapidly spreading fire first reported around 3 p.m. Friday.

“I think the fire had been burning quite awhile before someone called to report it,” said Deputy Chief Tom Wagner. “The second issue is the construction of the building.”

The building was constructed in the 1970s with a flat roof, but a pitched roof was added on with a common attic space, he said.

“Once the fire got up above the ceiling and to the attic, it allowed the fire to spread the entire length of the building,” Wagner said. “We had difficulty getting to the fire.”

INITIAL STORY: Massive Fairfield apartment complex fire displaced 18 residents, destroyed 11 units

The third contributing factor was the weak water pressure at the apartment complex.

“We had very little water pressure. Apartment complexes maintain their own private water mains,” Wagner said.

Wagner believes the water mains are smaller than the city’s mains. Water was transported to the scene and a hose was hooked up to a city hydrant in the Whitmore Estates subdivision, just north of the Villages of Wildwood.

“I think those were three contributing factors that led to losing the whole building,” Wagner said.

Wagner said that while the department has seen quick-moving fires in the recent past, he said it was “the worst from a water supply issue, having that kind of difficulty.”

“It’s not unusual for fires to burn that long. You can’t get to some of it, it’s not safe to send crews inside so we’re trying to hit it with these master streams,” he said. “When the fire’s that deep-seated, it’s really going to have to burn itself out.”

Wagner said the investigation is ongoing, but according to the preliminary investigation and statements from residents, the fire was caused by a kitchen fire. Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett said Friday night it’s believed the fire was sparked by a resident who left her apartment with food still cooking on the stove.

It had turned into a small fire by the time she returned, and within a few more minutes it became a large fire, Bennett said.

“Our big thing is we’re glad no one was hurt,” Wagner said.

One person was taken to a local hospital complaining of shortness of breath, but no other injuries were reported.

Some of the buildings downhill from the burned unit sustained some water damage due to the volume of water used to control and extinguish the fire. Residents adjacent and near the burnt building were able to return to their apartments after they were evacuated while crews were battling the fire, Wagner said.

The American Red Cross was called to assist the displaced residents. Calls to the Red Cross on Monday were not returned before deadline.

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