Lack of Working Sprinklers, Smoke Alarms Were Factors in Fire at Arrive Silver Spring Apartment Complex

Several factors contributed to the fire at the Arrive Silver Spring apartments, including the absence of working sprinklers and smoke alarms, according to a newly-released report from the county’s Fire and Rescue Service.

25-year-old Melanie Diaz, along with her two dogs, were killed in the three-alarm fire on February 18 at the downtown Silver Spring apartment complex. 400 residents were displaced, and at least 89 apartments were deemed ‘unsafe to occupy’ in the fire’s aftermath.

According to the report, investigators believe that something electrical caused the fire. Investigators were unable to identify the exact location of the incident, but the fire appeared to have started somewhere around a seventh-floor apartment’s recliner, end table, and sofa.

Several apartment doors and balcony doors were left open, which allowed strong winds to feed the fire and spread smoke throughout the building. The report also said that the fire was not believed to have been caused by aerosol spray cans exploding due to the heat, confirming what fire investigators had said in February.

In the report, the investigation is deemed to be closed; however, the county’s Office of Fire and Explosives Investigations reserves the right to update its conclusion if any new information is discovered:

The development and severity of the fire were likely affected by a few factors. The weather at the time included strong winds. As the occupants were attempting to fight the fire, the apartment door and balcony door were both open, causing
a natural draft that fed oxygen to the fire while also moving large amounts of smoke into the hallway, stairwells, and surrounding floors. A delay in reporting the fire as the occupants attempted to extinguish it, no working smoke alarms, and no sprinkler system were also factors in the extent of the fire.

Based on witness statements and observations made by Investigators, the origin of the fire was determined to be in the area around the recliner, end table, and sofa. A more precise location of origin could not be determined. There were multiple electrical items energized and/or charging in this area. One possible fire cause is a malfunction in one of these devices or in the electric system of the apartment. Due to statements indicating that one or both occupants of the apartment were smoking cigarettes prior to the fire, Investigators are not able to rule out smoking materials as a possible cause. Due to these multiple possible causes, the fire is classified as UNDETERMINED. At the time of this writing, no criminal acts or intentions are suspected.

The case is CLOSED and not considered a crime. The Office of Fire and Explosives Investigations reserves the right to amend the classification of the cause of the fire pending any further information that may be discovered in the future.

Photo: Pete Piringer / Twitter

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