Is a Housing Unit a Fire Trap?

April 26, 2013 Updated Apr 26, 2013 at 6:54 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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April 26, 2013 Updated Apr 26, 2013 at 6:54 PM EDT


Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - A group of neighbors at an east side housing complex worry they are living in a fire trap.

The residents of the two-story complexes at 363 East Ferry Street say they do not have an escape route.

Larry Smalls and his family have lived at the complex for six months.

They love the home but have one major concern.

"We realized there was no rear exit," Smalls says. "I found that odd because usually there's always some way out."

The family's major fear: what if a fire broke out and blocked the front door?

"The only way they could get out was through the bathroom window, onto the roof or one of the bedrooms upstairs," says his wife, Joyce Hair. "And then they have to jump from the roof."

The family says their biggest concern -- how would their neighbors young kids get out?

Joyce Hair says "Those safety ladders that you're allowed to throw out your window. But see it would be hard to do here because you throw it out and it lands right on the roof."

In addition, residents say windows do not open enough for some people to squeeze through.

City officials and representatives with the Department of Housing and Urban Development say the apartment meets the New York State fire code.

"There is an exception though that your window counts as your secondary means," explains Lou Petrucci, the Assistant Director of Buffalo's Department of Permits and Inspection Services. "So sometimes we receive a complaint that there's only one means of egress, and I'll ask if you have windows -- and windows do count as your second means."

Petrucci says the City of Buffalo looked at the housing unit, and that it meets all of the regulations made to keep people safe during a fire.

However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a committee taking a second look at the housing unit. Their number one concern is making sure it is safe for people with disabilities.