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Suit filed in apartment fire

August 06, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Williamsport man who was badly burned three years ago during a kitchen fire has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Oak Ridge Garden Apartments, alleging the apartment complex was negligent for not installing a more effective fire extinguisher.

Patrick Bowers, who now lives on Artizan Street in Williamsport, lived at Oak Ridge Gardens in July 1995, when a fire broke out on top of his stove, according to the suit, which was filed in Washington County Circuit Court.

Bowers grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the fire, according to the suit. The extinguisher was a class A, which uses water. The water - which is ineffective against grease fires - exacerbated the fire and resulted in burns on Bowers' face and upper body, according to allegations contained in the suit.

Bowers suffered "serious and permanent injuries" from the fire, the suit alleged.

At the time, the apartment complex had replaced some of its extinguishers with class ABC extinguishers, which are effective against a greater variety of fires, the suit contends.

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"The defendants knew the danger inherent in utilizing class A extinguishers on cooking fires but negligently failed to provide the apartments with safe class ABC extinguishers," the suit alleges.

The suit names as defendants the apartment complex and Edwin B. Feldman.

Jack Feldman, president of Feldman Properties, said Edwin Feldman has died. He had no comment on the suit.

The legality of class A fire extinguishers is open to interpretation, according to the state fire marshal's office.

Class A extinguishers are effective against fires that burn normal combustibles, like wood and paper.

An ABC extinguisher, which uses a chemical compound to smother the fire, can fight a wider variety of fires, according to fire officials. These include those involving flammable liquids and electrical equipment.

Charles Cronauer, supervisor of the Hagerstown office of the state fire marshal's office, said the regulations are confusing. They require portable 2A10BC extinguishers in "hazard" areas of apartment buildings, he said.

But what constitutes a hazard area is open to interpretation, Cronauer said. Since the apartments in Oak Ridge gardens have furnaces, which can cause fires, he said he thinks the law would apply to them.

"It might be a problem," he said.

Cronauer said the fire marshal's office has not cited the apartment complex for violations relating to its extinguishers.

Cronauer said anyone who uses a fire extinguisher should carefully read its limitations.

"It seems to me there's a burden on the user as well," he said.

Fire officials in March 1995, had recommended to apartment complex personnel that fire extinguishers containing water be replaced with those containing dry powder, according to Joe Kroboth III, then deputy chief of Halfway Volunteer Fire Co.

On Tuesday, Kroboth, now the department's chief, said ABC extinguishers are the trend.

"Now, installations are leaning toward ABC extinguishers and some of the purely class A extinguishers are being phased out," he said.

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