Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Deadly fire prompts lawsuit: Complaint alleges Redwood City building had inadequate sprinklers

from smdailyjournal

July 17, 2013, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal

The company that owns the building in the six-alarm blaze in Redwood City last weekend that killed one and left nearly 100 people homeless is being sued for negligence by a couple displaced by the fire, according to a civil complaint filed in San Mateo County Superior Court yesterday.
The blaze was the fault of Newport Beach-based KDF Hallmark’s “failure to properly inspect, maintain and safeguard the property from a foreseeable unit fire,” according to the complaint filed by plaintiffs Jorge and Juanita Chavez, who lived on the second floor of the 72-unit Hallmark House Apartments on Woodside Road.
The building has since been deemed uninhabitable by fire officials.
Officials with KDF Hallmark did not return a Daily Journal call yesterday.
The Chavez family is being represented by attorneys Ara Jabagchourian and Alexandra Hamilton with Burlingame-based Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.
Jabagchourian told the Daily Journal yesterday that more plaintiffs could join in the lawsuit.
The landlords need to take responsibility for protecting their tenants’ possessions and lives, Jabagchourian said.
“Given the lack of sprinklers, inadequate smoke detectors and/or other safeguards, a localized fire consumed nearly the entire apartment complex,” according to the complaint.
A fire that started in one unit should not have grown to such enormity, Jabagchourian said.
About half of the tenants in the building also received some type of assistance from the county, including housing vouchers. Many of the victims sought emergency shelter from the Red Cross for at least three days after the fire.
The victim who died was identified as Darin Michael Demello-Pine, 48, according to the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office. Pine lived on the third floor in unit no. 307, where fire officials believe the blaze started as an accident, perhaps from cooking.
Almost 40 hours after the fire was first reported, fire crews were still in the building knocking out windows and attending to hot spots.
Former residents of the complex stood in line two days after the fire started for a chance to recover any belongings remaining from the blaze. They only had 10 minutes, however, to recover their belongings.
Much of the third floor of the complex was completely destroyed by the fire and the rest of the building suffered major water and smoke damage. About 25 residents were briefly hospitalized and another 61 were housed at the evacuation center at the Fair Oaks Community Center the morning of the blaze.
KDF Hallmark did return deposits quickly to residents and also reimbursed them for July rent, a Redwood City police official said.
Yesterday, a fundraiser was held at Red Morton Park for the fire victims from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
KDF has been involved in the construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of more than 5,300 affordable rental units in 44 properties throughout California, according to the company’s website.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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