Fire Alarm Notification System Helps Save Lives at Major Construction Site Fire

EDMONTON (CP) - Fire officials say an emergency system that warned about 40 workers to evacuate a burning construction site likely prevented deaths in the ensuing inferno.

Two condominium towers were razed Friday after a propane tank caught fire. Within minutes the fire spread beyond control, spewing a wall of fire hundreds of feet into air and causing $5 million in damage.

"The emergency system they had in place was the reason there were no casualties," said fire department spokesman Jan Archbold.

Archbold said during the emergency, a siren blasted through multiple speakers across the job site warning workers to evacuate.

Tessco, the company that was building the condos, conducts four safety drills every month and had its most recent test last week.

Project manager Randy Eisenzimmer said the accident happened at the worst possible time in the construction process. The structures had been framed but there was not yet any fire protection in place, such as the drywall and sprinkler systems.

"They were just two big chimneys," he said.

Safety training at the site is taken very seriously, and Eisenzimmer said anyone sounding the horn during a non-emergency is subject to immediate dismissal.

The only hitch in Friday's evacuation was that fire crews were staging in an area where workers had planned to meet.

"I had to go around to account for everyone because we were a little scattered," Eisenzimmer said.

Archbold said a nearby fire crew was at scene of the blaze less than 60 seconds after it started, but it was but already too far advanced to extinguish.

The flames were so intense, neighbouring homes and restaurants were evacuated and nearby car windows melted.

Tessco spokesman Troy Stenson said the project was completely insured and construction will recommence after cleanup begins.

(c) 2005 Associated Press