Fairfield family had power shut off

April 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The police and coroner's investigations continued on Friday into a horrible tragedy in Fairfield. Four children were killed when the house caught fire and all of the children were all under the age of 4. Unpaid power bills may have sparked that fatal fire.

The mothers of the children are single mothers, who are sisters, and were having a hard time making ends meet. ABC7 was told by a close family friend that the apartment was rented out by one of the sisters, Letisha James. Letisha took in her sister, Shetarra James and her three kids when she had nowhere else to go.

Insurance investigators spent the day combing through the burned-out apartment.

On Wednesday night, four children died inside the apartment: 2-year olds Natalie Rogers and Neveah Nunn, 1-year-old Keviana Morgan, and 4-year-old Robert Charles Jr.

Police say the children's mothers left them alone in the unit while they went to the parking lot to charge a cell phone.

PG&E had shut off power and fire officials say candles left burning inside started the blaze.

However, Shetarra, the mother of Nevaeh, Keviana and Robert, says she blew out the candles before going outside.

"I miss my babies. I really do. I don't know what to say or what to do," cried Shetarra.

Tonika Lane says she feels like family to the other mother, Letisha.

"She's a great mom, a great mom," said Lane.

Lane says the power was shut off two days before the fire. PG&E says it cannot release any details about the account for privacy reasons.

"First and foremost our hearts go out to this family," said Brian Swanson, a spokesperson for PG&E.

Swanson says when a customer isn't paying the bill, the utility has a two-month process involving letters and phone calls, trying to work out a way to keep the lights on.

"Throughout the more than two-month process, we contact the customer several times and tried to work out an agreement. So, this disconnection of electric service is only used as a last resort after exhausting all those other options," said Swanson.

Neighbor Rudy Sylvan says he's had trouble paying his bill; he thinks having children in a house should be reason enough to leave power on no matter what.

"Something like electricity, that's really just an essential of living a normal life. I mean, when you got four kids like they do, I have three kids that live in this house myself, and one's a diabetic and we have to keep her medicine refrigerated," said Sylvan.

PG&E says that a variety of arrangements can be worked out. There are a number of special programs directly offered through PG&E and also through charities like the Salvation Army. PG&E says those customers that get special exception are those like on life support or with medical conditions.

Regardless, having children in a house is not reason enough to be exempt from paying a bill and avoiding a power shutoff.

The police investigation is still open. The coroner says cause of death results won't be available until next week.

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