OMAHA (KPTM)- Two fires just three months apart from each other makes one apartment complex change some of its policies for the better. The Hillsborough Pointe Apartments has teamed up with the Douglas County Health Department to offer smoke free apartments. Omaha is the second city in the country to have smokeless apartment options.
Crystal Medlock was in her apartment when the first fire broke out in December 2012.
"We were home that night and there was some random that came into the building and started screaming fire," said Medlock.
Three months after escaping the burning building, another building went up in flames. Both fires were sparked by residents improperly discard their cigarettes.
"You can't always predict what people are going to do when living in apartments," said Medlock.
That unpredictable brought lots of changes to Hillsborough Pointe. The apartment complex joins nearly 80 others in Douglas County to have smoke free apartments.
"We are just really looking for our property owners, managers and tenants as well to kind of take responsibility of their own health and to see the benefits in doing it on their own," said Aja Anderson, community health educator of the health department.
Shawn Knudsen, apartment manager, said both fires started on the outside patios. The complex added patio sprinklers as an extra safety feature to prevent fires from spreading.
"Nobody is requiring us to add these sprinklers on the patio, but it's another feature we're choosing to do because we want to make it as safe as possible," said Knudsen.
So far two buildings at the complex are smoke free. Knudsen said the goal is to have more smoke free apartments in the near future. For now Medlock said she's happy with the patio sprinklers.
"If someone was smoking either above us or something we have the chance of it catching and putting it out before it took the whole building," she said.
The health department hopes to reach a goal of 129 smoke free apartments by September.
The Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition also wants Omaha parks to go smoke free. Currently tobacco isn't banned from Omaha parks, but there are smoking policies at some parks in Lincoln and Fremont.
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