Three people are dead and six others are recovering from injuries after a massive fire at the Chesapeake Crossing Senior Living Apartments in the early mornings hours of July 15. Firefighters responding to the call at around 4:35 a.m., found flames shooting through the roof of the three-story buildings the complex located on Robert Hall Boulevard.
Chesapeake police officers saved countless lives by sweeping through the buildings pounding on doors and yelling that there was a fire and people needed to evacuate. Some of the residents who made it out told local media they were awoken by someone knocking on their door.
It is not clear if the building had functioning smoke alarms or a sprinkler system, both of which greatly improve the chance of surviving a fire. About three-fifths of all residential fire deaths occur in structures that don’t have smoke alarms, or have smoke alarms that are not working, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Seniors are at special risk for fire injuries and death. People who are 65 and older are twice as likely than all other age groups combined to be injured or killed in a fire, according to NFPA. This is due, in part, to mobility issues. The residents who perished in this fire were found in different parts of the complex.
Because of the elevated risk that fire poses to people 65 and over, some facilities that provide care to seniors, such as assisted living, long-term care and nursing home facilities, must follow strict federal guidelines that reduce the risk of fire hazards. Senior housing facilities are not included in this group and safety measures vary widely from site to site. But, just as in apartment buildings, landlords of senior housing communities are responsible for providing a safe environment for residents.
Chesapeake firefighters were assisted by crews from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk and Moyock. They battled the blaze for two hours before bringing it under control around 7 a.m. Each of the buildings is likely to be declared a total loss.
Two firefighters are among the six people who are injured. All of the injured are expected to recover.
One hundred and fifty residents have been displaced from 144 of the units in the senior living complex that were destroyed in the blaze. An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.