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2 Boys Start Structure Fires in Anaheim : Safety: Three-year-olds playing with fire damage two apartment complexes within nine hours. No one was hurt.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Small children playing with fire started two apartment blazes here within nine hours, fire officials said Friday.

There were no injuries reported in either blaze but both fires caused significant property damage, said Fire Department spokesman Mike Doty.

The first blaze broke out Thursday just before midnight in an apartment in the 600 block of East Avon Place. A 3-year-old boy at home with a baby-sitter found some matches and lit some clothes that were hanging in a bedroom closet, Doty said.

“When firefighters arrived, the closet and two bedrooms were fully involved in a fire,” Doty said. “But everyone got out safely.”

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It took 18 firefighters 10 minutes to bring the blaze under control. The fire caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to the apartment and its contents. No other units were burned but some were damaged by smoke, Doty said.

At 8:25 a.m., firefighters were called to the Tara Hill Apartments, 2130 Crescent St., to battle a blaze that had been started in an upstairs unit in the sprawling complex.

A 3-year-old boy, home with his 23-year-old mother and two brothers, set his bed on fire with a cigarette lighter, Doty said. “The mother discovered the fire and poured water on it and thought she had put it out,” Doty said. “She didn’t realize that the fire was still cooking underneath the mattress and the fire ignited again.”

The mother, Becky Deady, managed to escape with the 3-year-old and his brothers, ages 5 years and 6 months. Because she had no telephone, Deady fled to a fire station across the street and reported the fire in person.

Fire officials do not know exactly how much time passed since the mattress first ignited, but “there was quite a delay in reporting the fire,” Doty said. “If she had called when she first discovered the mattress burning, it would have made a big difference. There was a delay and she lost everything.”

Neighbor Gary Gurrola, who lives downstairs from Deady, said he and his three roommates were sleeping when they heard the sound of breaking glass.

“We looked out the window and saw the fire so we ran out,” Gurrola said. “We didn’t have time to grab anything. But, as long as no one got hurt, that’s the main thing.”

The fire caused $85,000 in damage to the apartments. The blaze destroyed Deady’s apartment and caused smoke and water damage to adjoining units. It took 25 firefighters 20 minutes to bring the blaze under control.

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Doty said the fires underline the danger in leaving matches or cigarette lighters within the reach of children.

“Parents need to take responsibility to keep cigarette lighters and matches away from children,” Doty said. “They can’t leave these things out and expect kids to ignore them. Kids are curious about these things and they are going to experiment.

“We have had way too many fires like this started by young children.”

The fires came at an unusually busy time for Anaheim firefighters, who also battled a blaze Thursday morning. That blaze was started by a transient in an abandoned warehouse in the 1800 block of Anaheim Street scheduled for demolition that day.

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The fire was reported at 9:50 a.m. and took 17 firefighters 20 minutes to bring it under control. There were no injuries.

“It is our belief that the fire was caused by one of two transients living in the building,” Doty said. “It was either started intentionally or by gross negligence.”

All three fires remained under investigation.


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