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.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.