Report says smoke alarms were disconnected

November 7, 2008 6:05:54 PM PST
ABC7 has obtained a copy of the official report on the deadly fire at a Vallejo senior center that occurred a few months ago. Investigators say not one of the smoke alarms were working. In fact, they were intentionally disconnected.

Casa de Vallejo is now just a shell of a building after a fire last August killed three elderly residents. Now that the Vallejo Fire Department released its official report, we know the rest of what happened. Residents inside never heard a fire alarm because it had been disconnected. Earlier on Friday, ABC7 spoke with a former resident who feels both angry, but also fortunate.

"I think we have to concentrate on how many people did not die. Not how many that died, but how many did not die. It could have been a disaster," said James Banigan, a former resident.

According to the official report, the fire began when a resident on the sixth floor, who had been on oxygen, passed out or died while smoking a cigar. When that oxygen ignited, the fire spread quickly next door, and then beyond.

At the time, building management had been upgrading the alarm system, at the request of Vallejo Fire, but it never followed requirements to notify residents, or the fire department, that the audible alarm was not working.

As a result, many residents remained asleep in their rooms unaware of the danger until police and firemen, banged on their doors to warn them. Friday, Vallejo's fire chief told ABC7 he suspected this problem early on, and interviewed the alarm company, but that they have been less-than-cooperative.

"We interviewed the general manager of the alarm company. We were promised some additional documents that we did not receive. So it's basically open still at this time, so we can get a complete understanding of what was functional," said Russell Sherman, the Vallejo fire chief.
"Would you say those documents are overdue?
"I would say yes," said Russell Sherman, the Vallejo fire chief.

On Friday, the alarm manufacturer, SimplexGrinnell, responded with this statement: "Our sympathies go out to those affected by this tragedy. As there are apparently ongoing investigations into the fire, it would be premature to comment on the particulars at this time."

Meantime, the Vallejo Fire Department has sent a copy of its final report to the Solano County District Attorney's Office.


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