That fire is one of at least fifteen KFOR covered in the month of October.
While the fire department said their investigation into the devastating apartment fire is ongoing and police say the deaths don’t appear suspicious, there are looming questions about the cause of the fire and who is responsible.
One former employee told the station there were prior concerns about a fire at the complex.
“Someone said pretty much we’re lucky we haven’t had a fire yet , sure enough the building goes up in flames,” they said in a earlier phone interview with the station.
Those comments come as fire inspection reports for the complex obtained through an open records request show code violations as far back as 2020, noting fire, sprinkler and alarm systems.
A 2020 violation notes one building was placed on fire watch due to no power, while noting several other buildings needed inspections.
One ‘notice of violation’ dated Feb. 13 suggests the systems weren’t up to date:
“All fire sprinkler and alarm systems must be in proper working order with a current green inspection tag. “
“You have some residents that have no power, say in the living room and or in the bedroom or something. That property is a nightmare,” said the former employee.
Attorney Ryan Owens said the fire is just one example of the challenges people face living in properties they don’t own.
“Where we’re at right now in law and policy in this state, is a renter needs to do everything they can to protect themselves. That means before you sign a lease agreement, you’ve gone in and you’ve looked at everything, you’ve tested all the appliances, you’ve made sure the heater works, the air conditioner works, the windows open and shut, the oven comes on, you know, that all the appliances in there, because landlords are obligated to deliver all of those in working condition to you,” Owens said.
“As a renter, you’re always giving written notice. You’re always documenting by taking pictures with your phone of what you’re seeing, what you’re experiencing,” he continued.
In an email to the station, CAF Management said they took over the property in February 2022 from the prior owners:
The CAF Management family is heartbroken over the fire at Penn Station Apartments on October 20th that resulted in the loss of life. The families and friends of those impacted by this incident are in our thoughts. We remain committed to helping our residents who were displaced by the fire find new homes in our community or in nearby properties we manage. Additionally, we are working closely with the Oklahoma City Fire Department, structural engineers, and insurance adjusters to facilitate the safe return of displaced residents to retrieve their personal belongings from their units.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of every resident in our community is our utmost priority. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, we diligently comply with the regulatory authorities in their annual fire inspections. Our company took over management of this property in February 2022, so we cannot speak about events prior to that time. Since our involvement, our last annual inspection in February 2023 was completed with no corrections needed. Furthermore, we have not had any fire-related incidents at the property while under our management prior to October 20th.
We value all our residents and want them to feel safe living in our community. Since assuming management of this property in February 2022, we have diligently conducted comprehensive fire safety inspections. We understand resident concerns may arise. Therefore, we are committed to collaborating with any resident who has concerns, working together to identify and implement suitable solutions for their peace of mind.CAF Management
However, four of the violation notices KFOR received so far are dated for, or after February 2023.
The station has asked the company to clarify any possible discrepancies, and the city for more detailed records.
“We guard against dangerous outcomes for sure in certain ways, like following city code about having appropriate fire suppression devices and firewalls, fire extinguishers, exit signs that are clearly marked, things of that nature…regardless of the source, there may still be liability to the landlord or the property management company,” Owens said.
For now, questions remain.
The former employee who spoke with KFOR was not identified due to fears of reprisal, but said they were empathetic towards the renters.
“Those people on that property, they don’t have a home…nobody really has a home over there.”