Fire alarms silent as fire destroys top-floor storeroom at Apex Hotel

Friday, 28 March 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 13 By  Boonlua Chatree

The fire alarms never sounded when a small blaze broke out at Pattaya’s Apex Hotel, and although many guests were alerted to the fire, some guests were not and remained sleeping until staff began knocking on doors hours later.

Eleven fire units were called to the Second Road budget hotel around 1:30 a.m. March 20 to extinguish flames that engulfed a storage room on the top floor of the seven-story building. Firefighters took about an hour to quell the blaze.

Pattaya’s fire brigade works to extinguish the blaze atop the Apex Hotel on Second Road.Pattaya’s fire brigade works to extinguish the blaze atop the Apex Hotel on Second Road.

The room was littered with used mattresses, beds, electrical appliances and documents, all of which fed the flames and caused about 300,000 baht damage. An electrical short is being blamed for the fire.

No one was hurt, but some in the hotel never knew their hotel was on fire.

An American guest said fire alarms never sounded and a hotel source pinned down by the Pattaya Mail confirmed the alarms were not working. The hotel guest said he was more alarmed by the fact that none of the hotel’s staff awakened him until 5 a.m., nearly three hours after the flames were put out.

Management at the Apex Hotel declined to acknowledge numerous phone calls and interview requests. Hotel fires remain a sensitive topic in Pattaya.

In 1997, 91 people at the Royal Jomtien Resort died when a leaking cooking-gas cylinder ignited in a ground-floor restaurant, sweeping fire through 12 of the hotel’s 17 floors. The hotel lacked any active fire-suppression systems, had unpressurized stairwells, missing self-closers on upper-floor doors and no fire-stoppers in elevator shafts. Making matters worse, the hotel was stocked with combustible wood and vinyl furnishings not treated with fire retardants.

Pattaya Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department officials say high-rise safety has improved immensely since then.

Department Director Saeree Jumpangern told the Pattaya Mail last year that high rises today are required to have numerous layers of alarms and fire-fighting systems. Smoke and heat detectors, sprinkler system, fire alarms, and fire escapes are all mandated by laws toughened after the 1997 fire.

Saeree noted that Pattaya also has a large stock of modern fire-fighting equipment, with ladder and basket trucks that can extend up to 68 meters. The department also performs weekly inspections and regular fire-training exercises with hotels, shopping malls and high-rise residences.

No inspections or drills of the Apex have been publicized in the past five years.

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