TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Because of its age, the Super 8 Motel – where a woman died early Sunday morning of burns and smoke inhalation – is not held to the same fire code as newer, more state-of-the-art buildings.
Any building constructed before the year 1983 is not required to be sprinkled, and its on-site fire alarm does not have to summon firefighters and emergency responders; such alarms must only alert motel guests and staff.
"Yeah, I'd like to see all the hotels and motels upgraded to where we could make a quicker response," said Jeff Fisher, chief of the Terre Haute Fire Department. "A fire will double in size every minute it burns," he added stressing that every second counts in an emergency.
Fisher said his department's response time to the Super 8 Sunday morning was less than two minutes; but that was only after a motel employee heard the local alarm, went to the victim's second floor room to confirm the fire, then returned to the ground level to call 911, according to those close to the investigation.
Asked if the fatal fire might've seen a different outcome had a call for help been triggered even sooner, Chief Fisher replied, "Maybe."
Randi Wallace, 31, of Terre Haute suffered serious smoke inhalation and burns over 60 percent of her body when her room caught fire before sunup.
Fire investigators are trying to figure out whether Wallace did, in fact, fall asleep on her bed with a lit cigarette, as motel employees suggest.
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