Investigators are still trying to determine what caused a roaring fire that swept through an apartment complex Saturday night killing a teenage couple and three young children. The fire also destroyed the home and personal belongings of a number of residents of the building.
According to an article in the Fresno Bee newspaper, the horrific tragedy struck in the wee hours of the morning taking the lives of the couple – Derek Fabian and his fiancée, Michelle Mattison; their 2-month-old daughter, Hayden and two other children who were there for a sleep over – Mattison’s siblings, Lexus Bisnar, 4, and her 2-year-old brother, Ariel.
Firefighters have been unable to explain why the five victims were not able to get out of the second floor apartment. Other residents of the building escaped unharmed. The fire didn’t take too long to spread because the apartments had shingle roofs and plywood siding, fire officials said. Neighbors told the newspaper that the apartment did have smoke detectors and that the apartment managers inspected them regularly.
Saturday’s fire reportedly was the deadliest in the area since November 1994 when a mother and four of her children died in a Visalia house fire, the newspaper reported.
My heart goes out to the Bisnars (who are not related to me), who came back from their outing that night, but didn’t take their children back home with them because the little ones were already asleep, according to the article. The Bisnars lived a block away.
No one yet knows what started this fire, where it originated or why so many people perished in the blaze. The farthest thing from their mind right now is probably hiring a personal injury attorney who has had a good track record of handling premises liability and fire cases.
According to a report in today’s Fresno Bee, a memorial Mass for the five victims is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Lemoore.
So who is responsible? Or better yet, when is a property owner liable for deaths, injuries and loss of personal property? Land, property, and business owners are required by law to keep their properties in a reasonably safe condition. When the owners fail to maintain their property – be it excess debris, an unsafe environment, lack of proper maintenance, inadequate security, construction that does not meet safety standards or broken or missing security features — they can be held liable for an accident or crime occurring on the property.
A good personal injury attorney who is well-equipped to deal with these cases will act as you’re advocate and be that someone on your side, looking out for you and protecting your legal rights. An effective premises liability attorney will have his own fire investigation expert on the scene immediately gathering evidence as to what happened and why.
I’ll bet that the property owners’ insurance investigators have already started working this fire case and I bet they’ve already been to the scene, taken photographs and looked for evidence to protect the property owners from liability. On the other hand, who is looking out for the family of the deceased or displaced residents? Who is doing inspections and evidence collection for them? Who is protecting their rights?
My prayers are with everyone who lost a loved one or a dear friend in this horrible tragedy.