Fire Marshal: No evidence of working smoke detectors
The State Fire Marshal says the fire in Butte that blazed through a trailer home last week, killing five young girls, was the result of cooking.
In a press conference on Thursday, Alaska State Fire Marshal David Tyler believes the September 7 fire that killed Alexis Quakenbush, 12; Nevaeh Flores, 8; Lilyanna Flores, 7; Sofia Flores, 6; and Jaelynn Flores, 3, was cooking related because of visual cues found in the kitchen area. He said troopers are still investigating the matter and could not specify where the fire started, nor would he say what or who was cooking.
Tyler said so far, there is no evidence, neither physical nor through interviews, of functional smoke detectors in the home. He said it's possible the detectors were destroyed in the fire and they just haven't found them yet.
Tyler believes the state statute says that it's the landlord's responsibility to have working smoke detectors before someone moves in; once the unit is occupied, it's up to the tenant to ensure the detectors are working.
Mobile homes are notorious for burning rapidly because of the materials used to build them, Tyler said. The family's trailer home was an older model, according to Tyler, and had thin walls and plastics which burn easily. His reminder for anyone living in a mobile home was to check smoke alarms to ensure they’re working.
“The safety recommendation is prevention,” Tyler said. “Prevention is the key. If you wait for your smoke alarms to wake you up, you’ve waited too long. You need to prevent the fire in the first place. If you have to use your exit drills to get out of the house, you’ve waited too long.”
News of the fire last week stunned the close-knit Butte community, where uncle Armando Astorga called the girls “awesome kids” who were “always together.”
“You lose five kids, you tell me what the next move is,” Astorga said during an interview with KTVA about how his brother and sister-in-law were struggling with the heartache. “This is not something normal.”
Court records showed a history of grievances between the trailer’s landlords and the children’s parents, Jimmy Flores and Janelle Quakenbush. The landlords alleged that the family was behind on its rent, while the couple said the residence had persistent maintenance issues.
According to Tyler, there was no indication that the fire was electrical in nature.
“[Investigators] look at the outlets and things of that nature and there’s no indication that anything started there,” he said.
Tyler said no foul play is suspected and no charges are being filed.
Steffi Lee contributed to this story. View the full press conference below.