Residents lose everything in fire

By Omar Guzman
Staff Writer

“This is the biggest and worst fire of the year in San Bernardino,” said division chief of the San Bernardino Fire Department, Eric Esquivel.

On Sunday Feb. 20 a fire damaged 26 units of a 30 unit apartment building.

The debris of the apartment building is all that is left days after a destructive fire took the homes of more than a hundred residents.

Neighbors, of the apartment complex located at 415 S. Mount Vernon Ave. San Bernardino, continue to speak about the tragic incident while they look at the damage the fire has done. There where large chunks of roof gone, shattered windows, water and mud cover the ground, and a “No trespassing” fence surrounds the building.

A woman who declined to give her name said, “The first thing I heard were the fire alarms, people pounding and pounding on the doors to wake everyone up. People were already helping everyone to evacuate before the firemen came to put out the fire.”

“This fire was definitely the biggest fire we have had so far this year, but we are hoping it can stay that way,” said Esquivel.

The call was received at 4:48 a.m. and the first fire unit on scene arrived at 4:54 a.m. where fire crews found several parked cars and a deep set which, for a moment, delayed access to the burning building.

At the time of the arrival residents were already evacuating from the building with no time to go back for personal valuables.

“We are not sure yet what exactly caused the fire but we do know that the fire had originated from one lower level room,” said Esquivel.

“In order to know the cause we have to eliminate all possible situations that do not fit and we also have lab experts analyze parts of the debris to check for any accelerants that can give us a clue as to the cause.”

The fire originated from the bottom floor south-east corner of the two-story, U-shaped apartment building, and spread rapidly through the rest of the building.

“The fire damaged 26 of the 30 apartments, and we only allowed the residents from the remaining four apartments that weren’t damaged to retrieve valuables,” said Esquivel.

According to a San Bernardino Fire Department Press Release property loss and damage cost is about $1.3 million, which does not include cost of valuables that belonged to the victims.

Esquivel explained that the perimeter closed would remain closed, to prevent anyone from entering because of the potential danger it could pose to the general public.

A shelter at Richard Preparatory Middle School in San Bernardino was set up Monday, Feb. 21, where 36 of the victims stayed overnight for one night only. The school happened to be closed due to President’s Day.

According to Red Cross communication specialist Robert Bahler, there were 103 victims who registered with the Red Cross and about 25 people volunteered to support them.

After the first day the shelter had to be closed and the Red Cross then provided care and financial support to help the victims acquire essentials, such as money to purchase food and clothes.

Omar Guzman | Chronicle Photo


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