Clovis firefighters stress the importance of safety after an apartment fire

August 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Firefighters are talking fire safety after 40 people at a Clovis apartment complex lost their homes. The fire happened about two weeks ago when a child was playing with a lighter, which then sparked a massive blaze.

Several tenants at the Scottsmen Apartments were accompanied by Clovis firefighters Saturday morning. They got a firsthand look at the fire devastation that still rattles some nerves. "Every day now when I go out on my patio, I see the building that burned and it's like post-traumatic stress. It's dawning on me how close to home this was," said Albert Vahied-Salehi. His apartment was spared but others weren't as lucky when the fire broke out last month.

Investigators say the fire was started by an 11-year-old child playing with a lighter. Firefighters are using the incident to teach others about fire safety and prevention. "Most fires or all fires can be prevented. In this case, [if the] cause of the fire was detected earlier or reported to us, we probably could have stopped it maybe at one room or one apartment," said Clovis Fire Chief Michael Despain.

By putting people close to the charred destruction, investigators hope to drive home the message that all fires are preventable. "They see it, they smell it. In some cases, we let them get so close, it kind of creates a significant emotional response," said Despain.

In the meantime, donations continue to come in to help tenants replace some of their lost items. "I think we have like 3 garages full of donations so everyone has been really helpful and coming together," said displaced tenant, Paul Hernandez.

Those who'd like to make a donation can contact the apartment management or the Clovis Police Department.

Firefighters remind the public to check their smoke detectors once a month to make sure it's working properly.


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