LANDLORD FACES CHARGES IN FIRE - Posted by Matt (MI)
Posted by Matt (MI) on July 31, 2003 at 09:41:32:
LANDLORD FACES CHARGES IN FIRE
This is a terrible story in Pontiac Michigan. Something
for everyone to think about I guess.
For those of us that are new to REI, are there any other
major areas like smoke detectors that we should be aware
of? Too bad that the landlord in this case didn’t put one
Any other areas that experienced REI are aware of where criminal charges like this can be filed against landlords?
Just wondering, if someone was leasing a property like this,
say doing a sandwich L/O - would they have gone after the orgiginal owner on this?
Terrible all around.
LANDLORD FACES CHARGES IN FIRE: Home in Pontiac became a death trap
No smoke detectors were found inside; lethal gases fatal to mother and 5 kids
July 31, 2003
BY MARSHA LOW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The family: Guillermina Carrasco, 26, holding an unidentified child; Grecia, 7, front left; Veronica, 2, and twins Enrique and Eduardo, 4. Selena, 1, is held by her father, Francisco Valiente, 26.
Surrounded by dense black smoke, Grecia Valiente clutched her teddy bear as she stumbled out of bed and into the upstairs hallway of her Pontiac home late Tuesday.
Grecia, 7, managed only a few small steps before inhaling gases superheated to more than 800 degrees. She collapsed and died almost immediately, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office said late Wednesday.
She shouldn’t have died, said officials who are pursuing criminal charges against the landlord in connection with the fire that decimated the child’s family in their rented home in the 600 block of North Perry.
Near Grecia, her mother, Guillermina Carrasco, 26, died of smoke inhalation trying to escape through a second-story window. She was found on a bedroom floor, clutching the hand of her youngest child, Selena, 1. Carrasco was 7 months pregnant with twins.
Four-year-old twins Eduardo and Enrique and 2-year-old Veronica also died of smoke inhalation. The children were found in their beds in adjacent rooms.
Couple dreamed of better life
COPING WITH DEATH: Another tragedy tests a city’s soul
Smoke alarm safety
CODE VIOLATIONS FOUND AT HOME
City of Pontiac inspectors noted the following violations on May 2 at 602 N. Perry, where six people died Tuesday night.
The owner was given until Oct. 1 to repair them. City officials said they have no record that the repairs were made. The violations included:
Sewer backing up in the basement.
Exposed wiring in a basement wall.
Steps need a handrail.
Windows won’t stay open.
Missing caulk around a toilet and tub.
All floors and bedrooms must have a working smoke detector.
Repair all wood on window sills.
There was no certificate of occupancy for the house pending repairs and reinspection.
The notice also said:
“Warning: Damage or injury resulting from delay or failure to comply with this notice will be attributed to negligence on the part of the responsible party or parties.”
Source: City of Pontiac Community Development Department, building & safety engineering division.
The smoke carried a lethal mix of chemicals from burning foam sofa cushions.
The family’s only surviving member is Francisco Valiente, 26, father to the children and common-law husband to Guillermina. He was out – trying to borrow a car to get to work in the morning – when the fire roared through his home Tuesday night.
By early Wednesday, Pontiac Fire Chief Wilburt McAdams said not a single smoke detector could be found in the rental home.
“It is our intent to pursue this as criminal negligence on the part of the landlord,” McAdams said. “We’re still investigating, but our preliminary findings lead us to believe that this is a tragedy that should have been averted had there been smoke detectors in that house.”
Pontiac code enforcement officers inspected the two-story bungalow in May and cited landlord Bobby Dansby for several violations, including the absence of smoke detectors throughout the home. Dansby, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, did not make any repairs before moving the Valiente family into the home, McAdams said.
Dansby owns other rental properties throughout Pontiac, McAdams said, and fire investigators are working to determine whether those buildings are safe for occupancy.
The Fire Department is expected to complete its investigation by Friday and submit findings to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for review, McAdams said.
Authorities said they believe the fire started after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
A window air-conditioning unit plugged into a power strip overheated and began to smolder, said Pontiac Fire Marshal Dan Durham. Soon the room’s carpeting and a couch pushed up against the unit began to burn.
By 10:08 p.m. the home was filled with choking black smoke and neighbors were calling 911.
Firefighters arrived within a minute, Durham said, and had the fire under control by 10:12 p.m.
It was too late.
Officials pronounced the mother and Selena dead at the scene. The other four children were taken to POH Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.
“This was a needless tragedy,” Durham said. “We believe this entire family would be alive today had there been smoke detectors in that house. It will be my mission for the rest of my career to pursue laws that allow us to require hard-wired smoke detectors in every rental property in this city.”
Tuesday’s fire is the latest in a string of blazes that has claimed multiple lives.
In July, Saul Jaime-Perez and his daughters Lucia, 15, and Jessica, 9, died when fire raced through their mobile home in Lyon Township as they slept.
A January fire in Detroit claimed the lives of six after a frying pan was left on a stove-top burner.
And five residents in a Mt. Morris Township senior citizens home died last October after a bedroom fire raced through the boarding house.
On Wednesday in Pontiac, neighbors and friends visited the brick and cedar-sided home along North Perry to build a memorial of stuffed animals, photos, flowers, balloons and candles.
Lourenzo Caldwell, 37, of Pontiac rented the North Perry home five years ago. An ice cream man, Caldwell visited the neighborhood often, making sure to stop for the Valiente children.
“They were nice kids. They were happy, bouncy, real curious,” Caldwell said. “When I heard the news that they were dead it just freaked me out. . . . I need to teach my kids what to do if there’s a fire.”
Strangers to the family also stood outside the boarded home.
Carrasco and Valiente family members living in Puebla, Mexico, were notified of the deaths Wednesday morning.
Some family members are traveling to Michigan to help with funeral arrangements that have yet to be finalized, said family attorney Diana Levy.