Officials probe fire alarm failure in Denver high-rise blaze

Building managers reportedly maintained that fire alarm sounded

Yet, some residents remained unaware of the fire.

Karen Shander on the eighth floor said she didn't know there was a fire until a 7NEWS reporter called her about 50 minutes after the blaze was first reported.

"I can smell that something is burning," said Shander, who from her window saw firefighters on the ground outside, but didn't know the fire was in her building.

Hallway Sprinklers Were Not Triggered

Champagne said sprinklers located outside hallway elevator doors were not triggered on the fire floor, possibly because "the flame did not have direct contact with the (sprinkler) head."

"But there was a lot of smoke damage around (the sprinkler head)," he said.

Elevators Didn't Automatically Descend To Lobby

Champagne said firefighters are also investigating why the building's two elevators failed go into "fire mode" and automatically descend to the lobby where their doors are supposed to open.

That poses two fire-safety issues, he said.

"The firefighters need to take control of the elevators, if they choose to, so that they can get to the floor quickly and attack the fire," he said. "You also don't want people getting on the elevators and becoming trapped and then us having to rescue them."

Yet, arriving firefighters found the elevators were still on floors midway up the building, he said.

So, fire crews had to hike stairs to find the elevators, he said. Then one of the elevators malfunctioned on the 10th floor as firefighters were trying to reach the fire.

"The elevator started to act totally squirrely, started to malfunction and jump around," Champagne said. The firefighters evacuated the elevator and carried hoses and air bottles another 15 floors to fire.

Firefighters train to carry gear up flights of stairs in case elevators aren't working, he said.

Yet, the elevator malfunction hampered fire crews' ability to swiftly get additional air bottles to the top floors in the case the fire continued to burning.

Champagne said the issues slowed the process, but didn't do any harm.

"It hampers our efforts, it puts firefighters and the civilians in that building in jeopardy and we don't like that," Champagne said.

"But we humped those stairs and still we got water on the fire in about seven to 10 minutes," Champagne said.

The fire appeared to be under control by 11:30 a.m. and was out by 12:30 p.m.

Asked if there any prior fire violations at the building, Champagne said, "We're never had any problems that I'm aware of there."

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