Lack of Smoke Detectors May Have resulted in 5 Fire Deaths

There were no smoke detectors found inside the apartment in the two-family South Plainfield home where five people died in a raging fire on March 1, 2012.  “In our investigation, we can find no evidence of smoke detectors in 1407 Clinton Ave.,” South Plainfield Fire Chief Thomas Scalera said.  The other half of the house, 1409 Clinton Ave., had three smoke detectors, one on each floor, Scalera said. But those on the first and second floors were not functioning, and the one in the basement was “chirping,” indicating the battery was dying.  The residents in the 1409 unit all escaped unharmed.

Evidently, when South Plainfield firefighters arrived at the scene in the middle of the night they did not hear any alarms sounding.  Fire officials confirms that the house was inspected in 2005, when it was purchased by current owner Gerado Avalos, and at that time it had the smoke detectors required by state law.

Avalos said the house had smoke detectors and that he replaced the batteries on the first and second floors in October. He said he tested them before leaving. “I provided everything necessary,” Alvalos said. “At that time, they were working. If at a later time they were taken down or malfunctioned I do not know,” he said.

Landlords, as owners of the property, have an obligation to comply with all state laws and fire codes.  In the event that the landlord did not provide smoke detectors to his tenants he could be held liable for their deaths.


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