Three women were killed and 11 others were injured when an early morning fire broke out at Southwood Women’s House, a South Nashville halfway, house on February 14. Firefighters rescued everyone inside the home and transported them to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where Kathleen Baird, 22, Tammy Nelson, 36, and Elizabeth Lopez, 35 later died.
There were no working smoke detectors or fire suppression sprinklers in the building and Southwood, a residential recovery program. Because treatment was not provided at the facility, it could operate without a license and had never been inspected by fire officials.
“About three-fifths of residential fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke detectors,” said Fred Pritzker, a fire attorney who represents clients who have been injured and families who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one. “And landlords have a responsibility to provide a safe living environment,” he said.
Firefighters were called to the scene at 414 Southwood Drive at 5:39 a.m., flames were visible when they arrived. A neighbor told local media that when firefighters opened the door they were met by a wall of fire.
Fifteen people were inside the home when the blaze broke out: 12 residents, two managers and the child of one of the managers. Fourteen of them were transported to Vanderbilt for treatment of injuries. Nine of the 11 who survived remain hospitalized.
Southwood is one of three residential recovery programs operated by Footprints to Recovery. That Nashville-based company is not affiliated with a national chain of recovery centers by the same name. Property owners Malcolm Lee Barrett and Pamela K. Barrett, also operate Barrett Realty which owns dozens of Nashville properties. Over the last three years, the properties have incurred more than 300 code violations including tall grass and weeds, furniture in the yard, run-down conditions and operating businesses out of residential homes, according to a report in the Tennessean. Because Southwood had no working smoke detectors and a fatal fire occurred, those homes are now being inspected by fire authorities. Southwood had four violations during that time period for tall grass and weeds and other exterior issues.
The Fire Marshall’s office and metro police are conducting a criminal negligence investigation of the fire. Nashville’s codes department has moved to have the house demolished.
Update: The cause of Wednesday’s fatal fire remains undetermined. Our investigators are working around the clock to get a complete understanding of what caused this fire. #NFDin2018 pic.twitter.com/8nv1cAJpEB
— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) February 15, 2018