Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 2, 2022

Students criticize infrastructure at The Marylander following Friday's fire

By MICHELLE LIMPE and MIN-SEO KIM | February 2, 2022

firetrucks

COURTESY OF JUNE WANG

Students noted that they initially thought this event was a fire drill rather than an actual fire. 

A fire was reported on Jan. 28 in The Marylander Apartment Homes a little after 8:00 p.m. The fire triggered two alarms, but no one was injured according to the firefighter ancillary commander on the scene. 

The Marylander Apartment is owned by Morgan Properties. In an email to The News-Letter, Korrie Borkowski, regional manager of Morgan Properties, confirmed that the office is working with the Baltimore City Fire Department to find the cause of the fire. 

“A preliminary investigation found that the source was not building related,“ she wrote. 

The ancillary commander on scene also stated that the cause was being investigated. Students believe it was a mattress fire.

Senior and Marylander resident Cheryl Liang detailed her experiences arriving on the scene in an interview with The News-Letter.

“I was returning from getting dinner in a car when we pulled up to the building. There were so many fire trucks surrounding the building,” she said. “When we got there, we saw someone laying out the hose to The Marylander.”

Liang recalled the firefighters giving residents directions to move away from the building. 

“The firefighters were walking in and out of the lobby already and doing work,” she said. “Eventually they told us to leave the lobby, and at that point we could hear them breaking the window of the apartment that was on fire, and we could see smoke coming out of the windows.”

COURTESY OF JUNE WANG

Resident and junior June Wang was in the building’s elevator when she learned about the fire. 

“While I was going up in the elevator past the fourth floor, I could smell a ton of smoke,” she said. “The firefighters light started flashing, so the elevator started descending and I could imagine that was when a lot of firefighters were arriving on the scene.”

After the elevator took her to the lobby, Wang recalled that people outside were not told why they had to leave their apartments. According to her, many residents were not dressed for the cold weather when asked to exit the lobby and stand outside. 

Junior Breanna Soldatelli tried to help those affected by the evacuation despite not living in The Marylander herself. 

“A lot of my friends are evacuated out in the cold with just T-shirts,” she said. “So, we were sending them blankets, and I am hosting some people in my house tonight in case they can’t come in tonight.” 


COURTESY OF JUNE WANG


Resident and junior Kai Holton explained that the evacuation process was very difficult because the  elevators were shut down during the fire.

“It was very hectic because The Marylander has 11 floors, so there were 11 floors of people through a tiny stairwell while firemen were going up with a hose, so there wasn’t enough space,” he said.

Liang added that they were allowed back into the building by 9:40 p.m. 

After returning to the building, Wang described what she saw remained of the apartment where the fire began.

“The door to the apartment was charred, and the door number was gone. The door knocker was covered in ash,” she said. “The entire floor was covered in debris.”

COURTESY OF JUNE WANG

According to Wang, the fire safety equipment in the apartment is inadequate, citing an absence of sprinklers in the individual apartments and the fire alarms being barely audible. She remarked that she was not aware of the fire until being informed by a group chat. 

Borkowski noted that the Marylander Apartment Homes office conducts fire inspections annually through third-party vendors to ensure that its properties are in accordance with the state of Maryland and Baltimore City. The office contracts national fire and safety prevention companies for these inspections.

She stated that the building’s smoke detectors were last inspected on Oct. 2021, while the elevators and fire panel were recently assessed on Jan. 19 and everything was found to be up to code. Though the individual units do not have sprinklers, she maintained that each floor has a fire alarm pull lever. 

“The property was constructed prior to regulations that required sprinklers to be incorporated in new construction,“ she wrote. “However, the building is equipped with numerous safety features to protect residents and meet compliance requirements, including concrete construction and concrete firewalls between apartments (concrete does not burn), carbon monoxide/smoke detectors with tamper proof, ten-year batteries, self-closing doors, fire alarms, and fire department connections on all floors.”

Currently, Morgan Properties does not have plans to create sprinkler system, but Borkowski affirmed  the office’s commitment to maintaining a space that is safe and up to code with its available systems.

Wang’s roommate, junior Tomisin Longe, also did not know that there was a fire until Wang called to warn them. 

“I get a call from June, and she says, ‘Hey Tom, I heard there’s a fire and the alarms are going off. I think you should get out of the building,’” they said. “I walk down the eight flights of stairs, just completely confused and very nonchalant, thinking it’s a drill because I am not hearing any alarms.” 

According to Longe, sometimes cooking food in the kitchen can set off the smoke detectors. As a result, they claim many residents had learned to ignore these alarms. 

Borkowski emphasized that residents are informed of upcoming fire drills or testing of internal through email and physical notices.   

Longe also recalled that one of their friends slipped and fell down the stairs during the evacuation due to a water pipe bursting and causing a leak. Holton remarked that he saw the leak going from the sixth or seventh floor all the way to the basement.

According to Holton the fire was was a wake-up call in many ways.

“This brought a lot of light to the fact that Marylander has a lot of issues that need to be addressed in terms of the building’s safety guidelines,” he said. 

Borkowski explained that the Marylander’s internal systems were inspected by third-party vendors after the fire occurred to ensure that they are in regulation with the city’s infrastructure policies. She encouraged residents to reach out to the office for additional support. 

“The Marylander Apartment Homes regularly distributes information and guidelines related to seasonal, pet, fire, and other safety matters to educate our residents and will continue to do so,“ she wrote. “We are grateful that all of our residents were able to safely evacuate the building, and no one was injured.” 

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