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Maryland State Fire Marshal says sprinklers could have prevented deadly Silver Spring apartment fire

More than 400 people were displaced by the three-alarm fire that left one woman dead and 19 injured.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — UPDATE: Family have identified the victim of Saturday's fire as 19-year-old Melanie Diaz. A GoFundMe page has been set up to pay for her funeral and support her family. 

Original Story:

Hundreds of people are still without a home following a three-alarm fire inside a 15-floor high-rise apartment in downtown Silver Spring.

The Saturday morning blaze that started around 6 a.m. inside a seventh floor unit of the Arrive Silver Spring apartments left one woman dead, and at least 19 others injured, including three fire rescuers. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue say three pets also died on the scene.  

Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci says the deadly blaze could have been prevented if the units were equipped with a sprinkler system. "We would not have had any of the deaths, we would not have had any of the injuries and had all of these folks displaced from their units," said Geraci to WUSA9.

Geraci says a single sprinkler head in the unit would have activated with the heat and either extinguished the flames or subdued them until crews arrived on scene. "It reduces the smoke, it reduces the heat, and everything else in this case," he said.

According to the state official, in 2019 the state code was modified to require all high-rises in Maryland to have sprinklers in all areas; management companies have until 2033 to comply. He says the Arrive Silver Spring is one of 80 buildings in Montgomery County that have yet to be retrofitted. 

Preliminary details provided by the State Marshal indicate that the fire broke out inside the unit while the tenants were away. "They were out, they came home, and found the fire in the unit and then they tried to fight the fire, which delayed the alarm tremendously which we see time and time again," said Geraci. 

Montgomery County Fire officials have not released the cause of the fire, but said it did not appear to be related to an explosion. 

Saturday morning several residents told WUSA9 that they did not hear the fire alarms go off on their floors. 

Due to the severity of the damage at the Arrive Silver Spring, Geraci says the cause of the fatal fire might be inconclusive. 

Sunday afternoon residents told WUSA9 hundreds still living in the building were without water and others expressed their concern about returning to the building. "At this point we feel like we don't have any other option. Our hands are pretty much tied," said Em Espey, one of the tenants that was rescued by fire crews after their seventh-floor unit was engulfed in flames. 

Espey and their partner Gianna Gronowksi, say they have been offered another unit. "It would definitely be the easiest thing to move across the way, to the other unit, but we definitely have a lot of safety concerns," said Espey. 

Gronowski says they still do not know when they will be able to retrieve the rest of their belongings. "We have no timeline about when we will be able to access the rest of our items again. So right now they are accumulating smoke and chemicals in the building still, " she said. 

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