A newly released investigative report concludes the largest commercial fire in Oklahoma City history was possibly caused by an electrical malfunction that sparked flames in multiple areas of the Canton at Classen Curve.
The Oklahoma City Fire Department’s report, released Friday, estimates the five-alarm blaze started about an hour before it was noticed and called into 911 at 6:33 pm on Feb. 8. The 326-unit apartment complex, at 6161 N Western Ave., spanned 374,507 square feet, was five stories tall, and included a parking garage and two interior courtyards.
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The cause of the fire was judged as accidental in the fire department report. Fire investigators said the construction site was compliant with all applicable fire codes at the time of the fire. Suppression systems, including automatic sprinklers and standpipes were not operational, adding to challenges firefighters faced battling the blaze over three days.
Investigators noted three meter bases had conductors running to the areas where the fire started and they could not rule out design defects or improper connections. Owners of the Steelyard Apartments in Bricktown, which caught fire in 2017 shortly before completion, are in ongoing litigation with OG&E over claims the utility’s contractor connected to the wrong circuits.
OG&E representatives declined to comment on the Canton investigation, saying it is ongoing.
Blair Humphreys, CEO of Humphreys Capital, noted investigators did not come up with any causes other than the belief the fire started with an electrical mishap.
“As expected, the fire department’s report confirms the building was in compliance with all fire codes and had passed all of its applicable suppression inspections,” Humphreys said. “While this process took longer than anyone hoped, we are grateful for the diligent work required to reach a conclusion. As the report notes, this appears to be an accident caused by a bad utility connection inside an OG&E transformer.”
When the fire occurred, The $65 million Canton was just weeks away from receiving a certificate of occupancy, which would have allowed finalization of leases and residents to begin moving in. Owners reported the Canton was on track to lease up faster than expected and at rents well above initial projections.
Removal of the debris was delayed until the investigation report was released.
“We look forward to quickly cleanup at the site,” Humphreys said. “Humphreys Capital and our trusted development partners are beginning the complex process of evaluating our options for this prime location. The path forward will be determined by many factors, including the insurance claims process. We do not have a timeline for a final decision, but we look forward to sharing more information with the public when we are able.”
Steve Lackmeyer started at The Oklahoman in 1990. He is an award-winning reporter, columnist and author who covers downtown Oklahoma City, urban development and economics for The Oklahoman. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman by purchasing a subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.