Nine people and one pet were injured Tuesday in a San Juan Capistrano condo fire on the 26500 block of La Zanja. Photo: Courtesy of Orange County Fire Authority
Nine people were injured Tuesday in a San Juan Capistrano condo fire on the 26500 block of La Zanja. One of the victims, a 3-year-old boy died later that night. Photo: Courtesy of Orange County Fire Authority

By Andrea Swayne

(Updated Jan. 22, 8 a.m.)

A mother and son—two of nine people injured Tuesday morning when  a second-floor condo caught fire—have died, officials said.

Jaiden Liborio, 3,  died at Children’s Hospital at Mission in Mission Viejo shortly before midnight on Tuesday, according to an Orange County Coroner’s Office report. As of Wednesday morning, Liborio’s mother, Maricela Sanchez, 20, and his 2-year-old brother both remained in grave condition, according to Captain Steve Concialdi, the Orange County Fire Authority’s public information officer. Sanchez died Wednesday night at 8:40 p.m. at the UCI Medical Center in Orange, according to an Orange County Coroner’s Office report.

The OCFA received a call at 9:15 a.m. reporting a structure fire in a condominium complex on the 26500 block of La Zanja in San Juan Capistrano.

A woman in her mid-20s tossed a 3-year-old girl and a 2-year-old girl out of a rear bedroom window and lowered a 5-year old boy to neighbors waiting below to catch the children, before jumping out onto a crib-sized mattress placed on the asphalt by neighbors to break her fall, Concialdi said.

A small dog suffering from smoke inhalation was rescued by firefighters and given oxygen. Photo: Courtesy of Orange County Fire Authority
A small dog suffering from smoke inhalation was rescued by firefighters and given oxygen by firefighter/paramedic Mark Hubert. Photo by: Gigi Graciette (shared by OCFA)

The woman and the two girls were transported to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center-San Clemente, all in moderate condition and suffering from smoke inhalation. The 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy who was able to exit the building on his own were taken to Mission Hospital of Laguna Beach. Both were also in moderate condition and suffering from smoke inhalation, Concialdi said.

A 48-year-old woman, the last of five who exited through the window, jumped, suffering serious lower leg injuries upon landing, as well as severe burns and smoke inhalation. She was taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo in serious condition.

Firefighters rescued Liborio’s mother, Liborio and his 2-year-old brother from inside the condo. All were in grave condition at the

The dog, named Osito is doing fine, authorities said. Photo: Courtesy of Orange County Fire Authority
The dog, named Osito, is doing fine, authorities said. Photo by: Gigi Graciette (shared by OCFA)

time of their transport to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

Liborio’s mother and the 48-year-old woman were moved to the UCI Medical Center burn unit in Orange for treatment Tuesday afternoon, Concialdi said.

A small dog found hiding in the bottom drawer of the dresser under some clothing was also rescued by firefighters and given oxygen for smoke inhalation. Concialdi said the dog, Osito, recovered quickly.

Sixty-five firefighters responded to the 2-alarm blaze, extinguishing it in under an hour.

The fire resulted in an estimated $180,000 in damages to the structure and $40,000 to the contents of the two condo units involved. A total of 80 people, residing in eight units at the complex, were displaced.

Investigators believe one of the children started the fire while playing with a lighter in the living room, Concialdi said.

A total of 17 people were living in the 4-bedroom condo. Three children were at school and five adults were at work when fire broke out.

“With so many residents living in a 4-bedroom condo, the abundance of beds, bedding, clothing, etc. greatly increased the amount of fuel for the fire,” Concialdi said, adding that investigators found no working smoke alarms in the unit, only the empty bases the alarms would have twisted on to.

“Smoke alarms are required in every bedroom and in all hallways leading to a bedroom and when they work provide crucial extra seconds that save lives by not only alerting people in the affected rooms but also in adjoining rooms and adjacent units,” Concialdi said. “In October, OCFA received 5,000 smoke alarms from Kidde to be given to families in need in Orange County. Those in need of working smoke alarms should call the OCFA smoke alarm program number at 714.573.6190 to request them.” —Allison Jarrell contributed to this report.

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comments (4)

  • 17 people residing in a 1-2 bedroom apartment. That is illegal and liability, and criminal law, lays on the Property Manager and Owner(s), probably owned by a REIT.

    Was the poor little boy playing with a lighter catching the dry Christmas Tree ?

    There are charges being filed regarding the negligence and illegal activity allowing multi families live in a single family apartment. The Managers and Owner(s) should leave the State immediately.

    Orange County cannot allow this to exist, Measles outbreak at Disneyland, TB outbreaks, Quarantines. The slum, rat and cockroach infested residencies a menace and health jeopardy to the entire County. How many of these residencies work serving people food.

    Was the deceased poor little boy, not playing with lighter, locked in the bathroom for disciplinary purposes ? Probably ! I know Mexican Household and their spanking, scolding and child abusive nature. They learned it from their Familia.

    At the DAs’ office indictments are in genesis, Civil Lawyers are amongst a rain maker suing the REIT, private equity firms and the Insurers.

    Rain is on the way for some, others Jail, and the poor little boy is missed tremendously by his siblings.

  • First, none of those units have 4 bedrooms. The largest are 3 bedrooms. So 17 people living in a 3 bedroom unit? It could have been so much worse. This is a tragedy that could have and should have been avoided. 80 people is 8 units is WAY too many people in that small of an area. That’s an average on 10 people per unit. Each building has (I believe) 2 – 3 bedroom condos and 2- 2 bedroom condos. This seriously needs to be addressed.

  • Sadly, very few people who live in San Juan , are surprised that this tragedy happened. It is no secret that the condos/housing here is an issue. The idea that over-crowded condos is acceptable is and always has been a blame game. The city council says it is a state issue, which it is, but when is someone going stand up and protect everyone? Mayor Reeves, this is on you now. This tragedy in La Zanja is just a wake up call. The owners of these condos and apts. need to be held accountable. I don’t care if there are 4 rooms, 17 people living in one unit just does not make good sense. This is NOT a race issue, so don’t make it one. This is about accountability, responsibility, and humanity.

  • So sad & could have been prevented easily. I live in area where you cannot even put up a storage room without permits from the city. Where are the city officials who should be inspecting these properties for safety? No smoke alarms & 17 people living in such a small area? Again the city with all their zoning restrictions & permits required for everything in SJC, where were the city inspectors? Sleeping at the wheel.. Need more inspections by the city to enforce safety & occupancy codes before this happens again.

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