BRIDGEPORT – Mayor Bill Finch said today that the city will ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for money to pay for installing fire sprinklers throughout the P.T. Barnum Apartments public housing complex, where a family of four perished in a blaze three weeks ago.
“The only real, final solution is to sprinkler all of those apartments,” Finch said.
The mayor, speaking on behalf of a task force established to look into the tragedy, said that since the fire the Fire Department and Bridgeport Housing Authority have been organizing discussions with Barnum tenants about fire safety, too.
“I think fire safety in the front of our minds is critical,” the mayor said. “We went door-to-door. We went to Longfellow School and had an assembly with 250 children, all of whom were in rapt attention.”
Finch said that education is a short-term step. The city will approach HUD with its money request after cost estimates are prepared, he said, adding that installation of sprinklers would be a long-term solution.
Also attending the noontime press conference were BHA Executive Director Nicholas A. Calace, Fire Chief Brian Rooney and state Rep. Charles Clemons, a former firefighter.
Tiana Black, 22; her 4-year-old twin daughters Nyaisja and Tyaisja Williams, and her son Ny’shon Williams, 5, died of smoke inhalation in the Nov. 13 blaze in their apartment in Building 12.
The exact cause of the blaze has not yet been determined, officials said, other than that it’s know that it originated in the kitchen. Residents at the West End housing complex and others have raised questions about fire safety because there is only one door to enter and leave the two-story, upper-floor units. Black’s apartment was on the second and third stories of the building.
The complex was constructed in 1950. It has 18, three-story buildings with 20 units each.
Prior to a renovation completed in the early 1990s, there was an emergency fire door linking the top-floor apartments, providing a second route of exit. But these have since been walled off in an effort to improve crime security. As it stands now, the apartments have only one door, although they meet all existing fire codes, officials said.
Firefighters reported that the smoke detectors in Black’s unit may have been sounding for as long as 20 minutes before a “911” call to firefighters was made.
The bodies of Black and her twin girls were found by the apartment door, while the body of her son was found in an upstairs bedroom.