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Parents Urge Stricter Day-Care Fire Safety Laws

Times Staff Writer

The parents of one of the two babies killed in last week’s fire at a Huntington Beach day-care home concluded their child’s funeral service Wednesday by calling for stricter fire-safety requirements for all day-care providers.

At a memorial Mass for 13-month-old John D. Reilly IV, Patricia and John Reilly III announced the start of a fund to lobby for reforms in state licensing laws. At the same time, state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) was preparing legislation to be introduced today that would require smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in all day-care homes.

“The Reillys hope they will be able to implement these things by publicizing what happened to them,” said Jinny Tyrrell, a family friend who is coordinating the fund.

The Reilly child and 8-month-old Jessica Jordon died of smoke inhalation in the June 8 fire, which was started by a child playing with a cigarette lighter. Their deaths could have been avoided if day-care operator Pat Orozco had installed smoke detectors, Huntington Beach fire officials said.

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Under current state licensing law, day-care providers with fewer than seven children, such as Orozco, have the choice of installing a fire extinguisher or smoke detector. Orozco opted for the extinguisher.

Both smoke detectors and extinguishers are required for day-care homes licensed for seven or more children.

The Reillys, in addition to seeking smoke alarms for all day-care homes, want the state to require day-care operators to receive emergency training and to file evacuation plans with local fire departments.

Current licensing provisions require a state-approved evacuation plan, but local fire officials generally are not involved in that process. Emergency medical training is now optional for day-care operators.

Watson, who will introduce the smoke detector legislation as an amendment to another pending day-care bill, said she is also interested in the reforms proposed by the Reillys.

“We want to look at the cracks (in day-care licensing) and fill those voids,” Watson said.

Kathy Alvarado, president of the California Federation of Family Day Care Providers, said her group would support Watson’s legislation.

“I can’t think of anyone who would object to that,” Alvarado said, adding that she believes that fire drills should be mandated for day-care homes.

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Apart from concern about day-care licensing laws, Wednesday was a day of grief for the Reilly and Jordan families.

A morning Mass at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Huntington Beach drew about 100 of the Reillys’ friends and family members. The service concluded with the reading of a poem John and Patricia Reilly had written for their son.

“Your overabundance of love was an inspiration to all you touched,” the poem said. “You brought a meaning to our family.”

The Reillys then took bunches of yellow and lime green balloons from the altar, walked down the aisle and released the balloons into a pale gray sky. The child’s body is being flown to New York for burial.

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At the request of the Reillys, the flowers sent for their son’s funeral were taken to the afternoon graveside service for Jessica Jordan, the daughter of Susan and Donald Jordan of Huntington Beach. Members of the Jordan family each carried single yellow roses when they arrived for the service at Good Shepherd Cemetery in Huntington Beach.

“Jessica will be remembered by her parents for the eight months of joy she gave them,” the Rev. Mike Fole told the 75 people in attendance. “It’s a tragic loss.”

The Jack Reilly Day Care Safety Fund is being managed by Patricia Reilly’s co-workers at Greyhound Exposition Services, 13861 E. Rosecrans Ave., Santa Fe Springs, Calif. 90670. Susan Jordan’s co-workers have also started a relief fund for all the victims of the fire, including Orozco and 6-month-old Nick Duncan, both of whom remain hospitalized with burns. Donations to the Huntington Beach Fire Victims’ Fund are being handled by The Mortgage Network, 2400 E. Katella Ave., Suite 1040, Anaheim, Calif. 92806.


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