Family of dead woman questions design of Durham apartment
Posted April 29, 2013
Durham, N.C. — A Durham woman might have escaped a fire Friday if her apartment had a back exit, family and neighbors said Monday, but city officials said the apartment met building codes.
Karen Timberman, 49, died Sunday night at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
Timberman was trapped in her apartment at Yester Oaks Apartments, at 936 Morreene Road, when the entire front of her apartment went up in flames Friday evening.
Her son said she barricaded herself in the bathroom, blocking the space under the door with wet towels, and called 911. By the time firefighters were able to pull her from the apartment, she had lost consciousness and had suffered burns on more than 35 percent of her body.
Her family and other Yester Oaks residents questioned the safety of the apartment complex. Her apartment lacked a rear door and windows because it backed up to other units.
Timberman's ex-husband, Bob Timberman, called the apartment a fire trap. He is in the construction industry and said she would have survived if she had a way out.
Jacquis Bullock, who lives two doors down from Timberman's unit, agrees.
"You are essentially trapped. There is no exit through the back," Bullock said. "If there was a second exit or entry way, I am pretty sure that she would have been able to get out of that door."
Gene Bradham, director of Durham's City-County Inspections Department, said building codes require only one door and a window in each bedroom to escape, which Karen Timberman's apartment had.
"I think they should change that. I really do," Bullock said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.