Sprinkler system could’ve saved couple killed in condo fire, Harrisburg fire chief says

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Harrisburg City Fire Chief Brian Enterline says two people didn’t have to die in a fire Sunday morning.

Officials say it happened around 2 a.m. inside of a third floor home at the Riverview Manor condominium complex off North Front Street.

The windows there are now covered in boards and smoke damage.

"It's a tragedy. It's nothing short of a tragedy," said Chief Brian Enterline.

The chief says Ryan Hoffman and Julene Jarosky lost their lives Sunday morning.

Enterline says the fire started because of a small electrical issue in the living room, adding fire crews arrived in four minutes.

"There was reports from the neighbors that the smoke alarms were going off for about 15 minutes so we will look at that delay in alarm in, and they didn't flee so we have reason to believe that they they tried to fight the fire," explained Chief Enterline.

He says the couple left their kitchen sink running and rummaged through cabinets underneath the sink, likely looking for an extinguisher. He says their front door was left closed, something that likely saved others living there.

“We probably would’ve seen multiple fatalities, my guess, because of how quickly that fire would’ve been able to grow once it had enough oxygen," said Chief Enterline.

The chief says it’s sad in more ways than one.

“Two young people are taken from us because of a small fire and in a building that, you know, if it were built today whatever sprinkler system, and quite honestly, we wouldn't even be talking about the fire because it would have been so small and it wouldn't even be newsworthy," he explained.

The chief says the building doesn’t have a sprinkler system because current state code doesn’t require it. A city ordinance dating back to 1986 states any buildings over 75 feet high must have sprinklers installed, but the condo complex isn’t that tall.

Enterline says theres a great value to having them.

"I think tragedies like we saw yesterday morning really really emphasize the need for that and had that been retrofitted we would not be sitting here today discussing the fatality of two people," he said.

The other problem, according to the chief, is renovations.

Condos and apartments, now undergoing renovations, must be retrofitted with sprinklers, but only if renovations cost 51 percent over the assessed value.

Even though Riverview Condominium Complex was renovated, the chief says renovations never hit that threshold.

He continues to stress: the cost shouldn't matter when it comes to saving a life.

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