Woman dies in fire at Deerfield Beach high-rise condo

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Anne Geggis

Published July 31, 2012

More than 40 firefighters from several agencies battled a blaze at the Tiara East condos that killed a 67-year-old woman Saturday.

The fire broke out in the 17-story building in the 300 block of North Ocean Drive shortly before 3 p.m.

It originated in Unit 902 and killed a woman who lived there, identified as Ellen Kartman, said Broward Sheriff’s spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright.
An unidentified Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue firefighter suffered second-degree burns while fighting the fire. He was treated and released at Broward Health North, she said.
The fire shut down A1A from Northeast Fourth Court to 20th Terrace for nearly three hours. About three dozen residents were evacuated shortly after the fire was called in at 2:48 p.m.
Coleman-Wright said that the unit where the fire

Broward County Fire-Rescue responds to a fire at the Tiara East condominium building at 333 N. Ocean Drive in Deerfield Beach.

started was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

“It was a blowtorch situation,” she said.

After the fire was doused, soot blackened four floors and could be seen on both the east and west side on the south end of the building. Officials had not determined how much damage had been done to the building that, according to residents, has 187 units.

Matt Jenny said his family has owned a unit on the ninth floor since the building was opened in the late 1960s. He was listening to the radio when he heard the fire alarm go off.

“I thought it was a false alarm until I got down and saw the billowing black smoke,” he said. “I heard glass breaking and an explosion — a pretty big boom.”

John Gregoriou, who has also lived on the eighth floor of the condo high-rise for many years, said that the deceased woman’s husband, Bart Kartman, had stopped working as a security guard in the building to take care of his sick wife.

Resident Donna Marks was sitting by the building’s clubhouse pool across the street when she heard someone yell, “Fire!” She was one of the first to call 911 at 2:48 p.m.

“We heard an explosion and the smoke was unbelievable,” she said.

All residents except those on the ninth floor were allowed back into the building at 6:28 p.m.

Bystanders reported seeing a wall of smoke.

“I couldn’t even see the back of the building,” said Bill Ducharme, who lives a block away.

Dick Miller has lived on the building’s 16th floor on and off for the past 40 years. He had just gotten back from the grocery store when the fire alarm went off.

“I went out on the porch and saw the fire,” he said.

He said he’s been in fires before, so he wasn’t too worried.

“It’s a very well-built building,” he said. “It was a nice, long walk down.”

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue crews were assisted by Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale firefighters, Coleman-Wright said. The cause of the fire was still under investigation Saturday night.