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By Allison Jarrell

In an effort to reduce the risk of deaths related to home fires, 100 volunteers will go door-to-door and offer to install free smoke alarms to residents in the La Zanja neighborhood on Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Residents will also receive information on fire safety, preparedness and how to create a home evacuation plan.

The volunteer effort, which the City Council announced its Feb. 3 meeting, is made possible by a partnership between the city and the Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Sheriff Department, the American Red Cross and Mission Basilica.

The effort to distribute fire alarms follows the devastating Jan. 20 La Zanja condo fire, which claimed the lives of a young mother and her two sons—Maricela Sanchez, 20, Jaiden Liborio, 3, and Iker Liborio, 2. The fire resulted in an estimated $40,000 in damages to the contents of the two condo units involved, and a total of 80 people, residing in eight units at the complex, were displaced. Mayor Derek Reeve dedicated the council’s Feb. 3 meeting to the memory of Sanchez and her sons.

In addition to installing smoke alarms, the OCFA and the Red Cross encourages all Orange County residents to ensure the presence of working smoke alarms in homes and create and practice home fire exit drills.

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comments (4)

  • How about the City Council looking at occupancy codes?

  • Well said, Bonnie. My question is why does the city permit high-density housing complexes like this without fire alarms and fire suppression systems in hallways and stairwells. Personally, I think that the city council and building departments are guilty as sin for having allowed the builder to cut corners.

    Alarm systems should be able to communicate with surrounding apartments, so as to give surrounding residents time to evacuate.

    The current council should order the complexes retrofitted with alarms and fire suppression systems, and mandate them in all new high-density housing tracts.

    And, like you said, Bonnie, the council should take a look at their occupancy codes, update them where necessary, and then enforce them.

  • If my memory serves, this condo complex was built in the 1970’s, long before smoke alarms were required. But there must be provisions that require updating upon property transfer. I haven’t researched this, but it’s not hard to do; that there are few, if any, owner occupants in this complex anymore; as condo’s they, at one time, were individually owned. But they became attractive to investors back as far as the 1980’s. They are mostly 2 and 3 bedrooms. So the notion that even a 3 bedroom place is adequate space for 17 people (as in the specific case of the fire that took 3 lives), is ludicrous. And very often the garages have been converted to make-shift living spaces as well, which is also contrary to code. On the other hand, it often takes several families to pool enough money to pay the high rents expected by investor/owners. Or “slum-lords”. Is it any wonder that that area is high in crime, drug offenses? Even homelessness?

    • Sam Allevato, are you listening.

      All high-density housing, such as the La Zanja complex, needs permanent, interconnected smoke/carbon dioxide sensors in every room of each apartment. These sensors should be connected to the complexes 110 volt power system with a battery back up that charges/recharges off the 110 volt connection.

      In common hallways and stairwells, there should be a fire suppression sprinkler system that would allow residents a safe passage out of the complex. Forcing them to jump from a second story window is not a practical solution.

      I think the going door-to-door and offer to install free smoke alarms is great, but will the occupants remember to change the battery when it dies. The city should require complex owners to retrofit their complexes and all new construction of high-density housing, such as the La Zanja complex should be required to install all of the above before a construction permit is issue.

      Likewise, as Bonnie Benton points out, the city needs to review its occupancy codes. Allowing 17 people to occupy a three-bedroom apartment is a prescription for disaster, and the disaster has already occurred. How many more lives will be lost before the city acts?

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