21 Aug 2014
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Cause of Grand Ave Fire Unknown, Under Investigation

Victims in the fire on Monday said their housing unit did not have smoke detectors, though state code has required the devices for over 25 years.

Cause of Grand Ave Fire Unknown, Under Investigation Cause of Grand Ave Fire Unknown, Under Investigation Cause of Grand Ave Fire Unknown, Under Investigation

The three people who were inside the South City home where a two-alarm fire occurred Monday night are shaken up, but recovering, family member Edgar Arceneaux said Wednesday.

"They have burn wounds on their ears and noses," Arceneaux said. Arceneaux's grandmother, Ermner, 87, his father, Edgar, and his uncle, Manuel were in the home at the time of the fire.

"I’m coughing up a lot of black stuff now and having trouble breathing," Manuel said on Wednesday.

The building currently appears almost fully intact on the outside, but Arceneaux said the inside is destroyed.

Residents of the connected housing unit, Roberta Rodrigues, her mother Ester Clemins and her 4-year-old daughter, fled the home after hearing what Rodrigues said was a window shattering in the fire around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. The fire did not enter their unit within the building.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Both Arceneaux and Rodrigues said that they have had faulty two-pronged electrical outlets in the years that they have lived in the two-unit building.

Arceneaux and his uncle, Manuel, who has stayed at the home on and off since 2001, said that there are no smoke detectors in their unit. They said that they don't remember ever having detectors, despite requesting them periodically over the years, including six months ago.

The Town and Country managing company contact for the Arceneaux family told Patch that she was not sure whether there were smoke detectors in the 873 Grand Ave. unit.

"We put [smoke detectors] in all of the buildings," she added. "But that fire looked pretty serious."

She also said that updating electrical outlets in a home from two to three-pronged would not be the decision of Town and Country, but of the owner.

Arceneaux said that a local branch of the Red Cross had helped the family find a place to stay at the Ramada Inn in San Bruno for the time being, and that the house's manager, Town and Country, is footing the bill for the hotel.

Rodrigues and her family are also staying in a hotel for the time-being because their housing unit was contaminated during the fire. She said the building manager planned to place them in a temporary housing suite beginning this weekend.

Since the fire, South San Francisco Fire Battalion Chief Steve Cardosi has provided further details about the incident. He said that upon fire officials' arrival to the scene, all occupants were reported to be out of the building.

A second alarm was requested due to the size of the fire, and units responded from the South San Francisco Fire Department, the North County Fire Authority, the San Bruno Fire Department, the Millbrae Fire Department and the Colma Fire Department.
Cardosi said that fire fighters put out the fire about 24 minutes after the arrival of the first fire engine reached the area. He said the fire originated in a second floor bedroom and had extended to the common attic space.

"The preliminary damage estimate is approximately $200,000 for the structure and contents," Cardosi said in an email.

Arceneaux said that everything in 873 Grand, where he lived for about 11 years, had been destroyed. 

"There's no moving back; everything is gone," he said.

The owner of the housing complex could not be reached at the time of this article.

Update 2:15 p.m.: According to South City Fire Marshall Luis Da Silva, smoke detectors have been required for every home in California since 1985. Carbon monoxide detectors will be required as well, beginning in January 2013.

Electrical wiring that includes three-pronged outlets has been standard for over three decades, Da Silva said, but are only required by law when new construction occurs.

Houses built over fifty years ago generally have two-pronged outlets. The shift to using three-pronged outlets came when more appliances appeared in homes.

"People maybe had a toaster oven, but now we have toasters, blenders, coffee machines, alarm clocks, where as before we had a wind up clock," Da Silva said. He added that two-pronged outlets aren't necessarily unsafe, unless they are updated or changed in ways that cut corners or don't follow code. 

Da Silva said the fire department is still looking into the cause of the fire on Grand Ave. He said that the chances of finding a definiitive cause of a fire depend on how intact evidence is at the site after being burned.

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