FOX8 received this statement from Irene Agapion from ARCO Reality:
“The fire department determined that unattended cooking caused the fire, NOT a maintenance problem with the stove, smoke detectors or a failure to meet other life safety requirements in unit 3100-E Summit. The fire was a tragic accident unrelated to anything ARCO did or did not do. ARCO is committed to providing safe, affordable housing for its tenants. ARCO does not object to local officials inspecting properties.”
Neighbor says he complained about faulty stove before deadly fire
The narrative suggesting a father was at fault for an apartment fire that took the lives of his five children last month suffered some serious blows during a meeting between residents and public safety officials on Thursday.
Soon after the deadly fire, which tore through the Summit-Cone apartments — also known as Heritage Apartments — just before 4 a.m. on May 12, the Greensboro Fire Department issued a finding that the origin and cause of the blaze was “unattended cooking.”
A statement by Irene Agapion-Martinez on behalf of her family, which owns and manages the property, cited the fire department’s finding, while absolving owners of responsibility. “The fire department determined that unattended cooking caused the fire, not a maintenance problem with the stove, smoke detectors or a failure to meet other life safety requirements in unit 3100-G Summit,” she said. “The fire was a tragic accident unrelated to anything Arco did or did not do.”
...Fire Marshall Tim Henshaw stood behind the “unattended cooking” finding as a narrowly defined technical cause, but disavowed any further conclusions that would either absolve the property owners or place blame on Emmanuel Mugabo, the father who was at home when the May 12 fire took the lives of his five children.
...A woman in the audience asked Henshaw if it was possible that the range came on by itself instead of being activated by a person, he responded, “Anything is possible.”
Another woman followed up: “So based on your conclusion, you have no way of assessing whether that stove was, in fact, faulty or not.”
“Correct,” Henshaw said.
“So in the newspaper the landlord is asserting that it was not a faulty stove based on the conclusion of ‘unattended cooking,’” she continued. “I was just wondering if she is making an accurate statement then.”
“I can’t rule either way,” Henshaw responded. “I know why the statement was made, but yes, it’s hard to know what was going on with the range itself.”
Saye Flomo, told police Capt. Trey Davis: “I called for him. The burners don’t go off. After they cook, the burners don’t go off for two or three hours.”
Flomo later elaborated: “I called [the apartment management] three times in three days before the fire took place. They said they were going to take care of it, and they didn’t.
“He was sleeping when the fire took place,” Flomo added. “He was not cooking at all. He came home from work and took his kids to bed. Then he went to bed, too.”
Workman fatally electrocuted at troubled apartment complex
And last August, in another apartment complex owned by the Agapions, a plumber was electrocuted when he came into contact with exposed electrical wires in a crawlspace.
A lawsuit filed on May 30 states that Gary Lee Hickenbottom was contracted by the Agapion family and their company, Arco Realty, on or about Aug. 2, 2017 to make plumbing repairs at 2316 Kersey St., a nine-unit brick apartment complex built in 1965. Hours after Hickenbottom went into the crawlspace, the lawsuit states, tenants at the adjacent building noticed that he hadn’t come out. Greensboro fire personnel and police were called to the scene, and a fire captain reportedly found Hickenbottom’s body under the building. The lawsuit alleges that the fire captain was shocked when he bumped into an exposed wire as he was backing out of the crawlspace.
The gruesome discovery prompted a call to a building inspector.
“The inspector determined that the permits were not obtained by the Agapion defendant and Arco Realty for this electrical work,” the suit alleges. “The inspector further found that the electrical system had bare wires, dangerous conditions, unsafe wiring, and electrical work that did not meet code.”
Food left on a stove, not defective equipment, caused an apartment fire early Saturday that left five children dead, fire officials said.
"We had an extensive interview with the mother and father yesterday, which led to this determination to the cause and origin," Assistant Fire Chief Dwayne Church said Friday.
Some extended family and community members had complained at a public meeting earlier this week about substandard conditions at the apartment complex at 3100 Summit Ave. Some said the family's stove had been on the fritz.
"That specific question was asked in the interview and that was determined to be false," Church said.
The parents told fire officials there was a problem with the stove but it was repaired and there had been no problems since March, he said.
"It was an accidental fire," Church said.
Unattended cooking was the origin and cause of the May 12 apartment fire that killed five children, a Greensboro Fire Department investigation has concluded.
After examining the fire scene at 3100 Summit Ave., Apt. G, investigators determined the room of origin of the fire was the kitchen, with the area of origin being the range, according to a city news release. Once the origin area was identified, the investigators narrowed the cause to unattended cooking and that the fire was accidental in nature.
The fire department said its investigative report does not, nor is it intended to, contain every detail as part of the origin and cause analysis.
Fire investigators have yet to determine a cause of the Saturday morning fire, but say it started in the kitchen and they are analyzing the unit’s stove. The apartment had no working smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.
The city’s action comes amid claims that the children’s father reported several small fires near the apartment’s stove to management in the days before the tragedy. It is unclear who the father might have notified about the problems with the stove, but the building’s owners said they had no repair request on file.
...The company, which is owned by Bill Agapion and several family members, has battled the city for decades over several hundred code violations at his extensive properties, many of them having been low-income rentals that fall below housing code standards.
City officials pledged to do more.
The city has offered free burial plots...
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