Kent RFA answers residents’ questions in wake of fire fatality

Call it an after-the-fire chat, an opportunity to calm fears, educate others and reassure residents who may have been caught in the throes of a damaging blaze.

Capt. Kyle Ohashi

Capt. Kyle Ohashi

Call it an after-the-fire chat, an opportunity to calm fears, educate others and reassure residents who may have been caught in the throes of a damaging blaze.

In the case of residents living at the SHAG Park Court apartments in Kent, the impromptu gathering Monday evening came in the aftermath of a deadly fire that claimed one of their own.

An 80-year-old woman died from injuries suffered from a July 11 fire in her apartment unit at the large complex off 64th Avenue South. Leona Cordray died from thermal burns, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The tragedy left some questions, prompting Kent Regional Fire Authority officials and SHAG representatives to huddle with residents in a crowded meeting room to discuss the fire department’s response and procedures and offer ways seniors can better prepare and handle emergency situations.

“We’re not here to place blame,” Capt. Kyle Ohashi, Kent Regional Fire Authority spokesman, immediately told the group.

While it’s rare to have a fatal fire when the building has a sprinkler system, firefighters reassured residents they are indeed safe.

“The sprinkler system performed perfectly,” Kent Fire Department RFA Battalion Chief Jeff Richardson told residents. “The sprinkler system saved the building and put out the fire.”

Cordray was smoking a cigarette when it accidentally ignited her clothing and the furniture in her apartment, according to the Kent RFA. She also used a home oxygen generator or machine, which fed the fire and caused it to spread quickly, fire officials said.

SHAG officials said the apartment complex sustained mostly smoke and water damage. Cost of the damage has not been determined.

Ohashi and fire officials spent most of the Monday meeting discussing general fire safety measures and how seniors can better prepare and respond to a fire or other emergency.

If you can safely evacuate your apartment in less than five minutes, using a stairway, do so, Ohashi said. If not, remain in your apartment, with the door closed and windows open. The door, Ohashi said, will temporarily shield a fire before help arrives.

Ohashi said the Kent RFA plans to conduct a fire drill at the complex to help gauge residents’ readiness and response.

The fire authority frequently fields after-the-fire conversations – a means to better engage residents and help victims it serves and protects.


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