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BFD reveals more details of weekend fire, death of IU student


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By Charles Scudder




Building management maintained smoke alarms were operable in building D of Terra Trace Apartments before it was engulfed in a fire that killed an IU freshman Saturday.

Fire officials said they heard the alarms when they arrived at the scene around 3:42 a.m. and began helping people down from ladders at the complex.

Some residents say they didn’t hear a thing as they ran to safety Saturday morning.

At a press conference Monday, owner of Terra Trace apartments Mary Beth Coller said smoke detectors were in every apartment but could not confirm if there were sprinklers or smoke detectors in the hallway and staircase where witnesses said the fire was
at its worst.

“There are some (smoke detectors) in each apartment and in the bedrooms according to the regulations on where they’re supposed to be placed,” Coller said. “Those are checked when all new residents move in, and we have the regular fire extinguisher-type inspections and all those types of things.”

Many in the crowd were residents of building D who expressed frustration with Terra Trace management, saying they had not seen the smoke detectors checked in more than a year, and they did not sound the night of the fire.

Resident Meredith Dover said the complex had posted notifications to residents that the alarms would be tested, but she did not hear those either.

“I could have just not been home at the time, but I didn’t hear any alarms,” Dover said.
“Something’s not right here.”

Dover and her mother, Julie Dover, said they were meeting with a lawyer Monday afternoon about the fire but had arranged alternate living arrangements in the
meantime.

“She’s staying with a friend now,” Julie said. “We’ve already got a new apartment.”
“No,” Dover interrupted. “It’s not an apartment, it’s a house. I’m never living in an apartment again.”

Chief of the Bloomington Fire Department Roger Kerr said Monday that the fire began in unit D8 on the second floor.

Smoke filled the apartment above, D9, where 19-year-old IU freshman Renee Ohrn died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, Monroe County Coroner
Nicole Meyer said.

Meyer said Ohrn had signs of alcohol in her system but did not have any indication
of drugs.

The source of the fire is still under investigation, but Kerr did say the residents of apartment D8 were not at home when the fire began.

“With the amount of heavy damage in that apartment, it may take quite a while to figure out what we think might be the cause,” Kerr said.

At this time, the cause does not appear to be criminal, Lt. Faron Lake of the Bloomington Police Department said Sunday.

Kerr said Ohrn was one of six people transferred to IU Health Bloomington Hospital as a result of the fire. Among the injured were Bloomington police Sgt. James Batcho and Bloomington fire Capt. Woodrow Hueston. Batcho suffered smoke inhalation after helping a resident down from a balcony, Lake said.

Kerr said eight people were rescued by the BFD from the building, including one other individual from apartment D9, where Ohrn was found on the floor inside near a
sliding glass door.

A fund has been set up through the German-American Bank Corps and the Monroe County Apartment Association to help residents displaced by the fire. Donations can be taken to any German-American Bank.

This week we discussed haunted attractions near Bloomington and fire safety concerns rising throughout the community.

Mary Kenney and Michael Auslen

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