Monday, October 24, 2011

Sometimes It *Is* The Victim's Fault

Just saw this article in a Canadian online newspaper. 3 men died in a fire at a "Flophouse." Why? Because things "didn't work" there, and these 9 guys apparently wouldn't fix anything themselves. (Not to mention they were there illegally.)

Vancouver rooming house in which three men died was 'an accident waiting to happen'
A former tenant described to a coronor's inquest, Monday that a Vancouver flop house in which three men died during a blaze as "an accident waiting to happen."

Harry Kayes was one of nine people living illegally in the home at Pandora Street, when the fire broke out on the night of Dec. 22. Garland McKay, Dwayne Rasmussen and Stephen Yellowquill were killed.

“It really was pretty bad living accommodations,” said Harry Kayes, who paid $400 a month for his room.

“There wasn’t much that worked there,” Kayes said of the house.

Kayes said fire detectors didn’t work, there were problems with the wiring and plumbing, and there were many extension cords for appliances. Kayes said there were hotplates in rooms, toasters under gas lines, a barbecue inside the house and mattresses on the floor. [Had the 9 men cooperated to keep things clean and neat...perhaps this wouldn't have happened.]

“It was an accident waiting to happen,” said Kayes.

Capt Ray Bryant of the Vancouver Fire Department testified that while there were many building code violations at the rooming house it was likely a short circuit from a plugged-in appliance that caused the deadly blaze. Bryant said the source was likely incandescent Christmas lights.

“The conclusion we came up with was this was an accidental fire,” said Bryant, a 26-year veteran of the department who investigated the fire.

“We believe there was a string of Christmas lights that were plugged into an extension cord,” said Bryant after his testimony. “This was a probable cause for what we could find in the area.

“We think there was a short circuit of some kind,” he said, adding there wasn’t much evidence found.

“There’s not much left,” he recalled of the late-night incident. “We’re left with a hole in the floor and items burned beyond recognition.”

Bryant told the inquest that fire investigators use the “backwards theory” — beginning their analysis from where there is the least damage to where there is the most.

Using that, he said, it was “very evident” the fire started at the rear of the home.

That space, essentially a deck that had been closed in, was being used by some of the men in the rooming house as a sleeping area.

“It wasn’t a qualified or legal place to sleep,” he said.

Bryant said the source of the fire was traced to a hole about six feet by six feet where some tangled Christmas lights were found. Testing indicated there were no hydrocarbons that could have started the fire in the area of the hole.

But there had been an artificial Christmas tree reported at the foot of the bed where the fire started and a piece of it was found. The lights could have been on the tree or in a box at the foot of the bed.

Bryant said there no building permits for the sleeping area and he pointed to a series of other electrical wiring violations in the area, some of which could have assisted the spread of the fire.

Bryant also testified he had attended a training session where a fire resulted after an extension cord was plugged in and wrapped in a rug, leading credence to the theory that the extension cord and Christmas lights could have sparked the Pandora blaze. [Why would you wrap an extension cord in a rug?]

Nine people were living illegally in the flophouse, a regular source of problems investigated by police, city inspectors and fire officials.

Despite frequent visits by the authorities, city officials did not shut it down. [And of course victim's families will now sue the city for not shutting down the flophouse.]

Kayes, the former tenant agreed that the lack of housing was the real problem.

“There is not enough housing,” he said. “I think everybody knows that.” [ could move to a different city with more housing, couldn't you?]

The situation, he said, is one where people “get away with whatever you can and hope it goes away.

“The landlord, she didn’t want to spend any money.

“It always takes someone to die before somebody does something about it,” he said.

The inquest resumes Tuesday and is scheduled to include testimony from Carlene Robbins, who was manger of the property-use inspections branch at the time of the fire and also in charge of a division that focused on bringing properties that had violated city bylaws into compliance.

Robbins claimed she was demoted after the fire and she sued the city for wrongful dismissal.

Testimony is scheduled to run through to Wednesday, with jury deliberations on Thursday.

My Schedule of Regular Posts:
*Monday through Friday morning - schedules of President, VP and Secretary of State and her diplomats
*Monday through Friday afternoon - List of topics Limbaugh discussed on his program that day
*Monday through Friday throughout the day - My posts on anything that I feel like talking about. At least one or two a day, sometimes more.
*Saturday through Sunday morning - An addition to my booklist of political books - covering Democrats, Republicans and other interested parties.

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