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Child becomes ninth fire victim

Kenny Kemp
Cathy Ross gives her daughter Erin Ross, 9, a hug after her and friends laid flowers, stuffed animals and a sign remembering the children who died.
Kenny Kemp A sign, flowers and stuffed animals are in front of the residence where nine people died in a fire early Saturday morning.

Parishioners comfort relatives of victims

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A house fire believed to be the worst in Charleston's history claimed its ninth victim Sunday.

Family members of Bryan Timothy Camp decided to take the 7-year-old off of life support Sunday morning, Mayor Danny Jones and the family's neighbors said.

Bryan's body was about 45 percent burned and doctors considered him brain dead, James Bausley, his uncle, said Saturday.

Nine people -- seven children and two adults -- have died as a result of the blaze that broke out around 3:25 a.m. Saturday at 2 Arlington Avenue on the city's West Side.

Sisters Alisha Carter-Camp, 26, and Latasha Jones-Isabell, 24, lived in the home with their children.

Carter-Camp, 26, Alex Seal, Keahna Camp, 8, Jeremiah Camp, 3, Elijah Scott, 3, Emanuel Jones, 18 months, and twins Kiki and Gigi Seal, both 3, all died in the fire.

Neighbors say Alex Seal, Carter-Camp's boyfriend, was staying at the house at the time with his children, twins Kiki and Gigi Seal.

Jones-Isabell, who was outside the home smoking a cigarette when the fire started, was able to run next door to a neighbor's house, who called 911 at 3:23 a.m. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 3:25 a.m. Jones-Isabell was not injured in the blaze.

The family's dog, a puppy named Cocoa, survived the fire. Authorities found the dog in the basement.

Neighbor Cassie Means said a representative from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department took the dog to the animal shelter.

By Sunday afternoon, people had left a sign, flowers and stuffed animals outside a fence at the residence, which was roped off with police tape and guarded by a Charleston police officer in a squad car.

Means, the family's 14-year-old neighbor, said she often played with the children, whom she described as smart and sweet.

"Some of them knew more than I did," Means said. "Keahna -- she was a math maniac. She was smart as a tack."

Bryan Timothy Camp, who was known as B.J., wanted to become a fireman when he grew up, she said.

Carter-Camp and Seal had planned to marry within a few months and move to Pittsburgh, Means said.

The rental house where the sisters lived was not equipped with working smoke detectors. Jones said Saturday there were two smoke detectors in the house but they did not work. One was not installed properly.

According to the International Property Maintenance Code, smoke alarms are required on the ceiling or wall outside each separate sleeping area, in each room used for sleeping purposes and on each and story of the property.

Delores Shamblin, of Mammoth owns the property.

Reached Sunday afternoon, Shamblin said she was physically ill over what happened.

"I've been sick," she said. "I cannot believe something like that happened. My blood pressure's sky high. My nerves is shot."

She said the family has her "deepest condolences." She declined to say more until she met with representatives with her insurance company, she said.

Charleston's rental inspection, in operation for about nine months, might have forced Shamblin to install proper smoke detectors in all bedrooms as required.

In fact, the home on Arlington Avenue popped up for a random inspection on the city building department's computerized system just last month, said George Jarrett, one of six property maintenance inspectors assigned to the program.

Both Shamblin and the tenant signed off on a form the inspector mailed in advance, notifying the owner of the pending inspection, Jarrett said. But when the inspector arrived on the designated day in late February only an under-aged teen was at home, he said, so the inspector declined to do the inspection.

Smoke detector problems are among the most common code violations inspectors find, he said.

"Property owners are not aware now that you have to have a smoke detector in each bedroom. You have to have one in a hallway in close proximity to the bedroom and one on each floor. Downstairs you have the living room, dining room and kitchen, no sleeping quarters, but you still have to have one.

"But here's another problem. Tenants will take out the batteries from a smoke detector and put them in a TV remote or a child's toy, or if it's a sensitive device, they'll disconnect it.

"I can't say smoke detectors would have saved everyone in that building," Jarrett said. "When I stepped on that porch, I just had this overwhelming sense of sadness.

"Smoke detectors are so cheap. I can't operate a screwdriver, but I can install a smoke detector. I have six to eight in my house. They're wireless, and if one goes off it triggers all the others.

"People just don't think, they just don't think. I just can't imagine putting my head on a pillow without a smoke detector. They've saved countless lives."

Jones and city councilman Ed Talkington said the fire is further proof that the city needs the inspection ordinance. If inspectors had been able to get in, they could have saved lives, they said.

Jones said ordinances like this one are difficult to enforce because cities do not have much power.

"We've made some progress in the past two years," Jones said. "When we passed the ordinance, we hired two other people [to do inspections]. Sometimes these inspectors do 20 to 40 inspections a day. Most people turn them away. Most tenants don't want to be bothered."

Talkington said, "It's not a failure of the inspection, the inspection didn't take place.  That's not the city's fault. There was no one there.... It shows the importance of having the inspection."

Staff writer Jim Balow contributed to this story.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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