NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville developer Tony Giarratana held a press conference Wednesday morning to provide an update after a fire at his 505 building in downtown Nashville last weekend.
A fire at the high-rise located on Church Street displaced hundreds of people and their pets last Sunday.
The initial fire began after a resident accidentally placed a basket on a stovetop in a kitchen on the 27th floor of the building. The sprinklers were activated and extinguished the initial fire. Water from the sprinkler system then hit electrical panels at an electrical closet on the 24th floor. No injuries were reported among residents or personnel at the scene.
Residents of approximately 350 units were displaced and 505’s team has since spent days inspecting every impacted unit.
Of the 350 units, 236 (or 67%) are completely unaffected and residents are free to come and go and reoccupy their units. Sixty-three units (or 18%) have minimal impact with repairs to be mad on damaged flooring, baseboards and drywall.
Fifty-one units (or 15%) have extensive damage, including cabinetry, appliance, flooring and kitchens that need to be rebuilt to brand-new standards.
The area around the damaged electrical closet on the 24th floor will be completely replaced. The building’s seventh floor amenity center where common areas and workout facilities are located is operational.
Power was turned off to the building turned off after the “bus duct,” which runs the entire length of the building, got wet from the sprinkler system. Once the power was turned off, the building’s emergency generator kicked on as designed, according to Giarratana.
Giarratana said crews with the Nashville Fire Department (NFD) who responded to the scene did not understand the generators for the buildings were state-of-the-art and completely independent from the electrical unit that supplies electricity to the apartments.
“The NFD directed the 505 team to turn the emergency generators off and with the emergency generators off, the elevators would not move, the emergency lighting in the stairwell so the stairwells were without light. We have asked for a meeting with the fire department from top to bottom so we could learn from this and do better. Nashville is a grown up city with grown up buildings. The buildings are getting taller, and more sophisticated, and our building and fire codes are very strict and complex,” explained Giarratana.
Without an elevator, crews had to climb multiple flights of stairs to notify residents on each floor.
“There are 528 units in this 45-floor building and our crews had to access those floors by the stairs. Those stairs are locked interiorly, so as they were going up those stairs, they had to get keys from property management and access those by keys,” explained an NFD spokesperson.
Residents have been offered units at other Giarratana properties such as the Gossett on Church Apartments or the Alcove. Some residents are staying with family or friends or at three downtown Nashville hotels at discounted rates.
The NFD held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to clarify its response to the fire.
“This bus bar is actually an energized bar that contains power and it sends that power throughout the building from the third floor through the 29th floor. On that bus bar is also an electrical panel that’s connected to it. When the water started to drip down and run off into this electrical room, it actually engaged with that bus bar and this electrical panel and it reacted violently, it caused a bit of what has been described as an explosion,” an NFD spokesperson said.
First responders reported the door frame to the electrical room on the 24th floor was blown off the door, leading them to believe there was a combustion, according to the NFD. The 24th floor sprinkler system then activated and added more water to the energized, electrical room.
The spokesperson added firefighters were left standing in a puddle of water with electrical currents being sent to the area where they were as the generator was working to repower the building. As firefighters were investigating, they reportedly started receiving minor shocks and reported to others the building was a shock hazard.
Power to the emergency generator was stopped so no one evacuating or responding to the building would be shocked, according to the NFD.
Electricity has not been fully restored to the building.
The 505 building reopened in downtown Nashville in 2017.