Atlanta apartment fire may have exposed issues with city’s fire codes

ATLANTA — A fire at the Reserve at LaVista Walk apartments in Atlanta on Friday may have exposed an issue with the city’s fire codes that need updating.

Atlanta Fire Chief Rod Smith said because the fire started on the roof, fire alarms and sprinklers did not kick in right away like they would in a normal fire.

He called it an anomaly and said they are looking into whether or not fire codes need to be changed to better protect against a fire like this one.

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A video taken from the rooftop of the Reserve at LaVista Walk on Friday night was posted on Instagram by one of the people now charged in connection with the fire, allegedly started by fireworks.

Robert Stokes, 43, and Charnelle Gunn, 35, were both charged with criminal damage to property and reckless conduct.

Now as residents stand outside the apartment and wait hoping for an opportunity to salvage what’s left in their units, fire investigators are looking into what happened.

Residents complained about not hearing alarms at the start of the fire and some sprinklers not going off.

But Atlanta Fire Chief Rod Smith tells Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Justin Gray that the investigation shows that could be because the fire started on the roof, and not because of malfunctioning equipment.

“This fire started in the corner from fireworks. This should not have gotten that big. If we had a working, working sprinkler system, it would have been killed. But it didn’t,” resident Shanaya Dessin said.

“So if it starts in the roof landing, clearly the alarm system is not going to activate,” Smith said. “The sprinkler systems are heat detecting. And so if it’s not burning up, but it’s burning down, that’s going to present a different challenge.”


One mother ran with her 5-month-old child to the exterior door closest to her unit only to find it locked.

“We live right next to the staircase. So we try to run out that way. It was locked. They put a deadbolt around the gate, and then we had to run down the hallway out to the garage,” she said.

Smith said as they look into inspection and code enforcement records for the building for any problems and issues, they are also looking at whether this fire shows that current fire codes are not strong enough.

“So our code enforcement team is looking into what can we do to modify the code to see where we can go in the future with these types of construction,” Smith said.

Channel 2 Action News has been asking city officials to provide us with records of fire safety inspections and any code violations for the apartment complex. We are still waiting for them to provide that data.

The management company for the apartment complex has set up a GoFundMe campaign to benefit residents.

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