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Fatal O.C. fire: no smoke detector where boy lived with 16 others

There was no working smoke detector and 16 other people living where a 3-year-old boy was killed by a fire

A San Juan Capistrano condominium where a 3-year-old boy sustained fatal injuries in a roaring fire did not have a working smoke detector and was home to 17 residents, authorities said.

The young boy died late Tuesday after suffering critical injuries in the massive blaze, which injured eight others and left 80 residents homeless.

The boy was identified as Jaiden Liborio by the Orange County coroner’s office. He was pronounced dead about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday at a hospital in Mission Viejo, more than 12 hours after the fire.

On Wednesday, the condominium complex in a dense, heavily Latino neighborhood near the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano remained encircled in yellow caution tape.

The fire started about 9:15 a.m. and was sparked by a child playing with a lighter, said Capt. Steve Concialdi, spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority. The flames rapidly spread.

An inspection of the four-bedroom unit where the 3-year-old reportedly lived with 16 family members revealed that the smoke detectors that had been installed in the condo had been removed, authorities said. Only the bases of the detectors remained.

Some of the smoke detectors in surrounding units were also not functioning, said Battalion Chief Mike Petro of the Orange County Fire Authority. He said some had dead batteries, some no batteries at all.

The 3-year-old, his mother and 2-year-old brother were injured when flames swept through their condominium in the 26500 block of La Zanja Street. Six others were hurt. Of the nine injured, six were children.

Firefighters pulled the family from the fiery condominium complex. Others managed to escape on their own and with the help of neighbors as flames and smoke overwhelmed them.

Many of the residents were sleeping when the fire started. Residents were alerted to the fire by heavy smoke, causing them to scramble to escape.

In the chaotic scene, one mother was forced to toss her 2-year-old and 3-year-old daughters from a bedroom window to residents below.  She also tossed a 5-year-old boy who ran into the bedroom, Concialdi said.

Residents got a crib mattress to break a woman’s fall.

The woman, described as being in her mid-40s, was seriously injured. She suffered severe burns and her legs were broken, Concialdi said.

Firefighters also found a small dog, named Osito, hidden in the bottom drawer of a dresser.

The drawer was slightly cracked open, but it provided enough room for Osito to slip inside. The dog managed to cover itself in clothing to shield itself from the flames.

Osito suffered from smoke inhalation and firefighters gave it oxygen.

In all, fire officials said eight units were damaged by flames and smoke.  Of the eight, two were destroyed.

An emergency shelter has been set up in San Juan Capistrano and the Red Cross is trying to find housing for displaced residents.

"It's a traumatic and emotional event to go through," said Meredith Mills, an Orange County Red Cross spokeswoman.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


12:59 p.m. Jan 21: This post was been updated with information about smoke detectors and the number of people living in one of the units.

This post was first published at 8:21 a.m.