Overcrowded units are a safety issue

Not only are overcrowded units a costly aggravation, they are a also a very serious safety concern.

Illegal plumbing and electrical work done by unlicenced tradesmen is one issue and far too many flammable belongings in tight quarters is another.

A horrible tragedy occurred in a California townhouse complex tells us how serious this can be.

San Juan Capistrano mayor vows action after condo fire kills 3-year-old
Orange County Register
By Matthew Fleming/Staff Writers,  Ken Steinhardt Staff Photographer

Update: Later in hospital, the boy's mother and brother died from their injuries

Local school officials offered students counseling Wednesday and the city’s mayor, Mayor Derek Reeve, vowed to take action to prevent similar tragedies after a fire set by a child playing with a lighter swept through a crowded condominium, killing a 3-year-old boy and leaving several others badly injured.

Jaiden Liborio, who was a month shy of his fourth birthday, succumbed to burn injuries late Tuesday at Mission Hospital, hours after the blaze began, authorities said.

Authorities said a child playing with a lighter caused the fire. Officials confirmed that 17 people – nine children and eight adults – had been living in the four-bedroom condo. In total, 80 people from eight units were displaced.

A total of nine people were injured, including some who were forced by the fire to jump from the second story of the condo. Six of the injured were children.

While the tragedy raised concerns over high occupancy in the condo, city Development Services Director Charlie View said cities are required to follow standards set by the state. Although the square-footage for the condo was not immediately available, 17 residents could have been allowable, depending on how much liveable space there was -- kitchens, bathrooms and garages are generally not considered liveable space.

The code is designed to be more inclusive than exclusive.

“There is a concern that you’re not so restrictive that people can’t find a place to live,” View said.

While a large volume of people does not impede the fire department’s ability to rescue victims, the sheer volume of stuff that comes with high occupancy could.

“Anytime there’s a large fuel load, it just feeds the fire,” Concialdi said. “Blankets, clothing and mattress could all increase a fire’s intensity.”

Another major concern were smoke detectors. Concialdi said all of them in the unit had been removed.

1,000 homes get smoke alarms after triple fatal fire last month in San Juan Capistrano
Orange County Register
By Aaron Orlowski
21 February 2015

Volunteers installed thousands of smoke alarms Saturday in the homes of neighbors of a mother and her two sons who died a month ago when a fire broke out in a condo with no working smoke alarms.

Kidde, a fire safety products company, donated 5,000 smoke alarms that firefighters installed in 1,000 condos in the La Zanja neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano. One hundred fifty volunteers from the Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Red Cross and church and community groups distributed the smoke alarms.

The fire on Jan. 20 that killed the mother and her two sons injured six others in the crowded condo where the nine of them were sleeping.

Less than a day after that fire, a similar one broke out in Santa Ana, according to OCFA spokesman Capt. Steve Concialdi. At the second fire, however, working smoke alarms alerted residents to the blaze at about 1 a.m., and the eight residents escaped unharmed.

“Smoke alarms provide those crucial extra seconds to let somebody know there is a fire inside their residence,” Concialdi said. "We're trying to give back to the community and make sure this never happens again."

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