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LAFD Officials Confirm No Working Smoke Detectors In Sylmar Family Home PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 23 January 2014 01:44



It may be weeks before LAFD investigators can fully determine what caused the tragic fire in Sylmar that killed a family of four. But fire officials told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol on Wednesday, Jan. 22, there was no “active working smoke detector” in the residence. LAFD Battalion Chief Steve Ruda, the department’s community liaison officer, confirmed there were no working smoke detector, but that was the only part of the ongoing investigation he could comment on.

“This case has no findings of this date and is still under investigation. But we have determined the structure did not have an active working smoke detector,” Ruda said. The fire broke out at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 13, ravaged a two-story barn that had been converted into a residence, and took four lives: Uriel Estrada, 41; wife Maria Estrada, 40; and their children Isabel, 12, and Alejandro, 8. Firefighters found Uriel a few feet from the front door; Maria and children were found huddled together near Uriel. They were found huddled together in an area where they were looking for some kind of shelter or escape,” said LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore, at the fire scene.

Two victims were transported to the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, while the others were taken to Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. Uriel and the children died on Monday morning; Maria died that afternoon. One of the main issues of dispute was whether smoke detectors had been installed inside the residence. Property owner Leonarda G. Aguilar says there were detectors. Later at a press conference, Augilar’s attorney Brian Weinberger also said his client had detectors at the property “all along.” The battalion chief refuted that assessment on Wednesday. When contacted by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, Weinberger said he had been advised through his client as well as the person in changed of maintaining the property whom he did not identify, that “there were indeed two brand new smoke alarms provided for that area of living.

I’ve also been to the sited several times and the fire appears to have been extremely powerful, so that it charred things beyond recognition. Let’s also keep in mind that smoke detectors are made of plastic, which easily melt.” Ruda said both LAFD arson investigators and representatives from the Los Angeles city Department of Building And Safety continue to investigatethe cause of the fire, but there was no timetable on when results of the investigation would be made public. “They have got find the point of origin of the fire,” Ruda said. To determine where the fire began, which way the fire burned through structure.

Then they have to rule out every possibility of suspicion, and determine whether it natural causes, intentional causes, and possible motives for fires. “An arson investigation is not called in on every fire if it can be determined whether it was accidental or intentional. But this is still active case. We will join partners with city Dept. of Building and Safety to determined whether there was permitted construction, whether all the work was done under permits — framing, electrical all those issues.

But even the through collaborated effort, if they still can’t find a definitive cause and it is ruled ‘undetermined.’” Ruda said he could not comment on the amount of evidence investigators removed from the scene, and how many similar converted buildings like this one were in Sylmar. “I know those type of properties are on multiple acres, and I’m sure people do convert spaces into living quarters.

If they do, they must do it according to the fire prevention codes of Building and Safety.” He again stressed there was definite date on when the investigation would be completed. “Things could change. [During the investigation) we maybe find something that wasn’t found before,” he said. “We are sensitive to the family issue, the cause, because once we say what happened it is difficult to bring back (if wrong).” The Estrada family had moved into the residence less than a month before the fire. The converted barn was located at 13781 Eldridge Ave., in Sylmar.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 00:08