Compton Vows to Connect Fire Hydrants


Compton officials pledged Monday to hook up fire hydrants at a mobile home park where a woman and two of her grandchildren died in a weekend fire, with a city spokesman saying the city needed to “do what is morally right” and to sort out legal and financial concerns later.

Outraged residents of the El Rancho Mobile Home Park on Atlantic Avenue said firefighters could not properly fight the fire, which broke out just after 1 a.m. Sunday, because the hydrants at the park were not hooked up to the city’s water main.

As a result, residents said, they watched as the fire destroyed one mobile home and then a second one, while firefighters scrambled to tap a fire hydrant on a street 1,200 feet away.


On Monday, the victims of the fire were identified as Saveriana Santana, 53, her grandson Christian Alejandro del Campo, 10, and her granddaughter Veronica del Campo, 8. The two children were visiting Santana, having come from Pacoima for the Christmas holidays with their brother and mother.

The hookup of the fire hydrants has been a source of dispute for the past several years. Compton officials had been trying to force the owners of the mobile home park to install hydrants, citing city requirements, and to pay for them to be hooked up to the city’s water main.

The mobile home park owner paid $50,000 to install four hydrants, but contended that it was the city’s responsibility to pay for the hookups, which they estimated would cost $17,000.

As that dispute continued without resolution, the state Department of Housing and Community Development intervened at the owner’s request eight months ago, saying the city could not require him to pay for hooking up the fire hydrants because the city does not have jurisdiction.

El Rancho is on land that is governed by the state Mobile Home Parks Act, which does not require parks to have fire hydrants, housing department spokeswoman Alana Golden said Monday.

Compton officials said Monday the city could no longer afford to wait for the dispute to be settled.


“The exigent circumstances [of the fire] raised the issue, and elected officials and administrators had a feeling that something ought to be done immediately,” Compton spokesman Frank Wheaton said late Monday. “We will pass a resolution to do whatever is necessary to give those citizens water.”

Wheaton said Mayor Omar Bradley met with City Council members and Fire Department officials throughout the day Monday, and all agreed to use city funds to hook up the hydrants. The city will then see if other trailer parks within the city need hydrants.

“We want to do what is morally right, right now,” Wheaton said. He said an emergency motion to pay for the hydrant hookups would be introduced at the council’s meeting today.

Acting Fire Chief Frank Sotelo conceded Monday that firefighters were hampered in their efforts to fight the fire, even with the 1,000 gallons contained in the two pumper trucks that responded within minutes of the first call.

But Sotelo said a preliminary investigation indicates that the problems with the hydrants did not cost the lives of the three victims.

“At the time of our arrival, it was fully involved,” Sotelo said of the mobile home. “It was too far gone for that. There was nothing we could do.”


Martin del Campo, one of the survivors of the fire, appeared to agree with Sotelo’s assessment.

An articulate 11-year-old, Martin was sleeping in the tiny mobile home with his mother, grandmother, brother, sister and two men when he awoke to the smell of fire. He heard his mother, Veronica Lopez, begin screaming and banging on doors to get everyone out of the unit.

Almost immediately, after feeling a whoosh of hot air around his head, Martin said, he broke out a window and helped push his mother to safety, even as her hair was on fire.

“Half the house was burning when I jumped out,” he said in an interview. “Within three minutes, all the house was burning.”

Fire investigators from Compton and Los Angeles County were seeking to pinpoint the cause of the blaze, which Martin said started in the kitchen.