A series of technological failures at John Sealy Hospital contributed to smoke spreading through the building during a January 2017 fire, the state Fire Marshal’s Office found.
The fire caused an estimated $7.8 million in damage, medical branch spokesman Raul Reyes said.
The fire began Jan. 4, 2017, in a second-floor waiting room at the medical branch hospital. Smoke originated in an area under construction, and hospital equipment and furniture caught fire, Galveston Fire Department officials said at the time.
Smoke spread as high as the ninth floor, but was reported to be dense up to the fifth floor, officials said. About 200 people, including women in labor and infants in intensive care, had to be evacuated from the building. No one was injured.
Although the fire was extinguished more than an hour after it began, evacuations continued because of the presence of smoke. Newly obtained details from the State Fire Marshal’s Office investigation showed that the smoke door near the room where the fire began didn’t fully secure after the alarm activated, said Jerry Hagins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance.
“Because the door did not perform as required, the hospital wing had to be evacuated,” Hagins said.
Medical branch officials did not immediately respond to questions about the state Fire Marshal’s Office’s findings.
Hagins said the State Fire Marshal’s Office worked to resolve the technological issues with the hospital.
Elevator smoke enclosures also failed to seal properly, “causing smoke to fill other areas of the building that should have been sealed off from the fire,” Hagins said.
The hospital also lacked fire department phone connections and radio signal boosting, which are required by code, Hagins said.
The fire alarm was current and had been inspected within the previous year, Hagins said.
Police haven’t made any arrests in the fire, which was initially ruled as arson. The state Fire Marshal’s Office determined that the cause of the fire was arson, but since then, a hospital official said it’s unclear whether the fire was intentionally or unintentionally set.
The case is still open, but inactive, Reyes said.
The hospital was closed for more than a month as crews repaired smoke and fire damage. Those repairs included some to elevator doors and ventilation systems, Reyes said.
“The whole area needed to be gutted and redone,” he said.