On the night of Nov. 16, 2017 at approximately 11 p.m., a fire quickly spread throughout the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community while residents were sleeping. Of the 160 residents and staff at the location of the incident, four residents lost their lives due to the blaze. 27 others were injured and taken to a nearby hospital. West Chester University became a short-term shelter for some of the displaced residents, while other residents were taken in by their families. It was later discovered that the fire started in a rear patio in the personal care section of the Barclay Friends complex. The exact cause of the fire is still unknown, but is actively being investigated by the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Foul play and arson are not suspected.
An engineer hired by Barclay Friends informed surviving victims, their families, families of the deceased and attorneys that water to the sprinkler system was turned off the night of the fire. According to lawyers of the families, the sprinkler’s warning system gave incorrect readings that the water was turned on when it was actually turned off. This information was discovered during a December 2017 debriefing held by Dan Arnold, an engineer with Seneca Fire Engineering. Seneca Fire Engineering is a firm based in Atlanta that works for the Barclay Friends complex. During the debriefing, the lawyers of the families were told by Arnold that the large wheel used to control the sprinkler was in an off position following the fire. Seneca Fire Engineering could not be reached for comment.
According to Ian Bryson, an attorney with McEldrew Young, and Samuel Dordick, an attorney with the Mongeluzzi firm, this large wheel was locked inside a mechanical room within Barclay Friends. The mechanical room was left untouched by the fatal fire and was only unlocked after the fire was put out. This rules out the possibility of firefighters turning the water off while putting the fire out in order to secure better water pressure for their hoses.
The firm that Bryson works for represents the Parker family. The Parkers lost Thomas Parker and his wife, Delores, as a result of the fire. The firm of McEldrew Young did not return messages seeking comment on this matter. Andrew Duffy, who works for the Mongeluzzi firm, filed the lawsuit in support of the family of Theresa Malloy. The Malloy family lost Theresa Malloy as a result of smoke inhalation from the fire. The Mongeluzzi firm filed the suit because the sprinklers were not working that night and the valve for the water was off, which would have helped put the fire out. The firm stated that Barclay Friends had failed in its responsibility to keep its residents safe with the fault in their sprinkler system. The Mongeluzzi firm did not return messages seeking comment on this statement. The family of Theresa Malloy also could not be reached for comment about the lawsuit.
Jessica Ferguson is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. ✉ JF830568@wcupa.edu.