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Hard-of-hearing neighbor in deadly Court Street Commons fire wants special alarm system

The woman lived just above the unit that caught fire Monday
Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A woman who lives above the Court Street Commons apartment that caught fire on Monday wants to see improvements to the building’s alarm system.

Bettye Brown lives above the unit where a man died in a fire. She is hard of hearing and didn’t hear the fire alarms sound when the fire broke out, but other neighbors called and she was able to escape the building safely Monday.

Management and first responders evacuated close to 140 people from the building during the fire. The resident of the apartment that caught fire died and one other resident was transported to an area hospital for treatment of difficulty breathing.

Management says they practice fire drills every few months for this very reason. Brown is hopeful they’ll make one added change to guarantee her safety next time.

“You could smell it so bad,” she said. “I’m having a problem breathing myself. I did kind of panic because of the smell -- let me know there is really a fire.”

Brown has two hearing aids to help her, but she said it’s still impossible to hear fire alarms ringing. The only reason she knew of the emergency is because her neighbor called.

“It was lucky she did call me, because I believe everybody else on the floor was already outside,” she said.

After informing management of her hearing impairment, Brown said they installed lights on the three fire alarms in her one-bedroom apartment to activate when there is smoke in her apartment. She said that’s helpful, but not when there’s a fire outside of her unit.

She noticed the issue during the frequent fire drills at Court Street Commons.

Brown said she brought this to management’s attention four months ago -- the need for a different light that blinks when the building’s fire alarm sounds.

“I just get kind of upset, because they don’t pay attention or listen to what I’m saying,” she said.

Brown said she’s grateful for her neighbors that call, but what if one of them isn’t home the next time?

McFarlan Villages, which manages the Court Street Commons complex, issued the following statement on Tuesday in response to Brown’s concerns:

“Please understand that our focus at this time must remain on the health and well-being of our residents. Additionally, because there is an ongoing investigation as to the circumstances related to the recent fire, we have nothing further to add at this time. Once we are confident that all of our residents have received the care and support they need, and the Flint Fire Department has concluded its investigation, we will be in a better position to address any issues that may be raised by our residents. We ask that you continue to keep our residents and their families in your prayers, and thank you for respecting our need to focus on our residents.”

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