Last week on Tuesday July 17th the 197-unit apartment building at 3949 Lindell was destroyed by fire.
The Lindell Apartments at 3949 Lindell caught fire around 7 p.m. and quickly went to five-alarms.
Around 100 people were inside the building at the time. Everyone was evacuated safely. The 197 unit building housed around 250 people who are now homeless. (KSDK)
Less than an hour after firefighters arrived on the scene of a blaze at a Central West End apartment building Tuesday night, they were forced to evacuate as the top floor of the four-story structure began to collapse.
The flames spread so fast through the attic that firefighters thought something must be wrong with the building. (stltoday.com — see photo gallery)
The building was previously destroyed by arson in June 2007 during construction, but this time it was occupied.
Had a fire started in a kitchen, for example, the sprinkler system would have likely put it out. But the fire is said to have started in an attic space though, above the units and the sprinkler system. Apparently the building code allows the use of a drywall wall to be used as a firestop within the attic to slow the spread of the fire. But a wood framed wall with drywall can’t hold a fire for long. Between apartments it’s good enough to contain a fire until the sprinklers come on. But in an open attic space with so much wood a big fire can get going and pretty much blast through a drywall firestop.
So while the building may well have been code-compliant, it wasn’t built with best practices. Such a large building, especially one of wood frame construction, should have had masonry walls to completely section off the building into parts. A fire may have destroyed or heavily damaged a section of the building but the rest would have been unharmed. Such a wall exists between the parking garage and the building, likely required to keep a car fire from spreading from the garage to the building.
I’ve been photographing this building for years, but I never once visited inside. Here are images from 2007 & 2008:
It’s important to note the property owner was not the original developer, from January 6, 2012:
Education Realty Trust, a Memphis-based developer, owner and manager of college housing, has purchased an apartment complex near Saint Louis University for nearly $28.5 million.
The four-story complex at 3949 Lindell Blvd. was bought with cash on hand, the company said. Education Realty Trust recently began doing business as EdR as part of a rebranding effort.
City of St. Louis records show the apartment building’s former owner as GB St. Louis 1 Temp LLC, a Dallas-based affiliate of Frank Howard’s Gulfstream Capital Partners. (St. Louis Business Journal)
The following images are from Thursday July 19, 2012:
The existing frame construction will be razed with only the parking garage remaining. When apartments are built here again it needs to have several masonry firestops from the ground to above the roof. Ideally AAA and CVS will get together with EdR to include the west half of the AAA site into the new construction as well as a CVS pharmacy and renovation of the AAA for a restaurant space.
No doubt that wired smoke alarms helped in alerting all the residents so no human life was loft. But understand that building codes are the very minimum that must be met to obtain an occupancy permit.
– Steve Patterson