False fire alarms wake Albuquerque apartment residents at all hours

Fire Alarm

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Marcus Pauda just wants a quiet nights sleep. For the past month, he and hundreds of other people who live at his apartment complex have been jolted out of bed by an obnoxious, high-pitched, shrieking noise.

In July, Pauda moved into the Cottonwood Ranch Apartments on Coors Boulevard, across from the Cottonwood Mall. Three weeks later he got his first unexpected wake-up alarm.

False Fire Alarms:

  • 8/28: 12:39 p.m.
  • 8/10: 6:59 a.m.
  • 8/9: 4:29 a.m.
  • 8/8: 2:38 a.m.
  • 8/3: 7:55 a.m.
  • 8/3: 7:31 a.m.
  • 8/2: 6:38 a.m.
  • 7/26: 7:18 p.m.
  • 5/13: 2:17 p.m.
  • 4/16: 2:14 p.m.
  • 3/15: 9:25 p.m.

“You’re probably in your deepest sleep at that point of the night, and you are awakened by a screeching sound. It’s a little alarming at first; it’s a little scary,” Pauda said.

It’s the fire alarm that’s been waking residents up at all hours of the night. In the past month, it’s gone off seven times — at all hours.

Lisa Fickel, the property manager for the complex, said the alarm is triggered in one building, but it sounds in all 25 buildings. There are individual alarms inside each of the 400 residents’ apartments.

“It’s a very high-pitched, excruciating, piercing sound … You also have a flashing light going off in your apartment as well,” Pauda said. “It happens anywhere from midnight to about six in the morning.”

There’s no chance residents can sleep through the loud noise or the strobe light that goes off. But each time residents have gone outside after another rude awakening, they’ve they’ve learned they’ve all been a false alarms.

“I’m thankful for it. I appreciate that it will awaken me when an actual emergency is here,” Pauda said. “But after the 10th time you kind of just get a little frustrated wondering if it’s just another false alarm.”

The Albuquerque Fire Department has responded 11 times in the past six months — seven of those in August alone.

“Seven alarm calls is excessive,” said Fire Marshal Cmdr. Scott Esposito.

Each time AFD responded, firefighters discovered false alarms. Firefighters are at the complex for about an hour, which takes them out of service from responding to other emergencies.

“We send out two units — a fire engine and a ladder,” Esposito said of the alarm calls.

fire alarm calendar

Neither the complex managers nor the fire department knows what is causing the alarm to go off. The marshal’s office inspected the system and says it didn’t find any malfunctions. The complex manager said she is in the process of updating the fire system to hopefully put a stop to the false alarms. But the manager wouldn’t say what those changes are.

AFD wonders if prankster may be causing the trouble.

“It is a crime, if they are caught they can be charged with a misdemeanor: 90 days in jail, $500 fine,” Esposito said.

The city of Albuquerque can fine a business or a homeowner when police have to respond to more than three false security alarms in a year. But the fire department doesn’t have an ordinance for that.

“It’s been tried in the past, it was found not to be effective. It was too time consuming. The cost wasn’t covered,” Esposito said.

Pauda said the false alarms have been the biggest aggravation for families who live at the apartment complex.

“I’ve spoken to quite a bit of parents here in the complex whose children are awakened at three, four and five in the morning … awakened and screaming and it’s hard to get them back to sleep,” he said.

Pauda says he’s happy to have met so many of his neighbors. But he wishes it was not in the middle of the night while wearing pajamas.

“Usually we’re not really about it when we’re having to meet each other at four or five o’clock in the morning,” he said.

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