Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
By Doug Phillips, Amy Beth Bennett and Linda Trischitta
Published March 15, 2018
As fire alarms rang through a 15-story condo tower in
Pompano Beach, Amber Webb grabbed her young nephew and joined a rush of
residents escaping — while others waited for help on their balconies.
She thought to herself, “I’m going to die
in a fire.”
Webb survived after fleeing the fifth floor, but the blaze
early Tuesday at Intracoastal Tower Condominiums killed one
person and left 100 displaced, their building damaged by
smoke, water from fire hoses and a possible burst pipe.
The body of Vincent R. Andretta, 80, was found in a
bathroom where the door had been closed, said Sandra King,
spokeswoman for Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.
“He was possibly on the phone in the bathroom and he became
trapped and died of smoke inhalation,” King said. “It’s
possible there’s a family member inside the same building.
Somebody reported he was on the phone with her at the time
of the fire.”
Andretta lived in Unit 704, three doors from Unit 707, where
the fire is believed to have begun.
The woman in that unit, who was not identified, told
investigators that she walked out of her bathroom to find
her home on fire, King said.
An 80 year old man has died and 7 residents were
transported to area hospitals after a fire broke out just after 1am
at Intracoastal Towers, a 15-story condo building in Pompano Beach.
“She left her apartment and shut the door, which was a very important move
because the door was fireproof and helped contain the fire,” King said. The
woman was not harmed, but the fire destroyed her apartment and quickly sent
heavy smoke down the hall and into other units.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The alarm at 1:12 a.m. drew
firefighters from northern Broward County south to Pembroke Pines, about 50
trucks and ambulances in all, to fight a stubborn blaze that fought back for
2.5 hours, King said.
Firetrucks were faced with flames ripping through a unit on the seventh
floor of the complex at 1505 N. Riverside Drive, said Pompano Beach
Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hohl.
Fire crews advanced to the seventh floor but couldn’t get down the hallway
because of the heat, Hohl said.
Decals on firefighters’ helmets melted in the hot air, King said.
Damage to the condominium would have been less significant, Hohl said, if
there had been fire sprinklers in the building. It was built before Florida
regulations required high rises to have sprinklers, but to comply with later
state laws they must be installed in December 2019, King said.
“I do know that our fire marshal was working personally with this building
and the management of this building,” she said. “This is a perfect example
of how important it is to get these buildings up to code.”
The American Red Cross provided temporary housing for 49 people who were
unable to rely on family members or friends. The Pompano Beach Women’s Club
was housing about 25 people Tuesday and for the next two nights, King said.
“We were eventually able to put a ladder pipe up and knock the fire down
from the outside,” Hohl said. Firefighters then moved hose lines in where
they were able to rescue people trapped on balconies.
Three people who took refuge on balconies and four other residents were
taken to hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation. By 9 a.m., all but
one of them had been released, King said.