Senior Apartment Complex Fire Claims a Life

On April 23, 2014, a 71-year-old man was killed in a fire at a senior apartment complex in Mesa, Arizona. The man lived in a second story unit of the complex, located on Brown Road near Country Club Drive.

A security guard noticed smoke exiting the unit, heard an alarm, and attempted to enter the apartment. When he was unable to do so, he called 911.

Keith J. Thomas was pronounced dead by responders at the scene. The man, who lived alone, was found in the kitchen area of his apartment. Though he was found with burns on his body, the cause of death has not yet been determined.

The fire did not spread beyond Thomas’s unit, and investigators have not yet determined a cause. According to Mesa’s fire captain, Dean Morales, the victim may have succumbed to a medical emergency before the fire started.

Thomas was a resident at the independent living section of the two-story complex. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), being cognizant of fire safety is critical, particularly for older adults. The USFA notes that people older than age 65 have a higher risk of perishing in a fire than any other group. More than 1,000 seniors are killed by fire-related incidents each year, and an additional 2,000 injured.

More information about fire prevention for older adults and their caregivers is available from the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security website. Talk to your or your loved ones’ building manager to ensure that safety measures are in place in the event of a fire.

Older adults are at greater risk because they may have mobility, vision, and other challenges that make it difficult for them to escape in the event of a fire. If you care for an older relative who lives independently, make sure he or she has working smoke alarms and a clear plan for evacuation in the event of a fire. Timers and other measures may be taken to remind seniors about lit candles, food in the oven, and other fire hazards.