Westfield, MA – Sprinkler system activated for fire at apartment complex

Two families are left without a home following a fire in a Westfield apartment complex Tuesday night.

Fire officials told Western Mass News that this was not the first fire in that same apartment building.

Back in 2018, a fire in Building 5 of the Powder Mill Village displaced everyone living there. On Tuesday, another fire in that same building displaced two families.

The Fire Department credited a new sprinkler system for saving lives and stopping the flames.

“I laughed and thought it was somebody that just over cooked their supper,” said Sheila Elmer.

Elmer’s family is now without a home after a fire broke out in the apartment above hers, also leaving her handicapped husband and autistic son with just the clothes on their backs.

“We’ve lost most of everything,” she told us. “Everything has a very bad burnt plastic smell.”

Westfield Fire officials told Western Mass News that they responded to the fire in Building 5 of Powder Mill Village around 6 p.m. on Tuesday night and that the cause has been identified as an unattended candle.

Deputy Fire Chief Seth Ellis said that a fire in the same building close to 4 years ago displaced the entire building. It has since been rebuilt, and because of new laws, a sprinkler system had to be installed, which he said ultimately saved lives.

“The sprinkler system that was installed in the building after a serious fire in 2018 extinguished the fire for the most part prior to the fire department arrival and prevented this from being a much worse incident,” Deputy Chief Ellis explained.

Elmer said that if it was not for the sprinkler system, her family may not have gotten out in time.

“If the sprinkler wasn’t there, it would’ve caught on fire and burnt multiple, again like last time,” she told us.

She said that her husband is in the hospital after having difficulty breathing and her son’s therapy cat is missing, but she is glad everyone is safe and is hopeful her family will be able to find a handicapped accessible apartment quickly.

“We have a lot of support,” said Elmer. “The immediate need is just getting us a place to live. I have fourteen dollars in the bank. I’m not going to get anywhere with that. It’s too cold to be in the car; my husband and son can’t be in the car. I can, but not them.”

The fire department said that some of the other buildings in the complex have partial sprinkler systems in place but Building 5 is the only building with a full system. They also recommended using electronic candles instead of an open flame. No injuries were reported.