Official: Smoke alarms present in home where fatal fire occurred
The home in which Riley Jeffrey Rieser, 3, died on Oct. 31 had smoke detectors, at least one of which worked, according to Louisiana City Administrator Bob Jenne.
Jenne said he sat in on the interview the Missouri State Fire Marshal had with parents Ryan and Catherine Miller after the fatal blaze.
There was one smoke detector in the bedroom near where Rieser was found and another in the home’s kitchen, Jenne said.
“They knew that one was actively working because it always went off when they cooked,” Jenne said Tuesday, Nov. 12
Louisiana Fire Chief Mike Lesley said on his report there were no smoke detectors found in the home and none were sounding when firefighters arrived at 1:03 a.m., just five minutes after the 911 call was received.
Jenne confirmed there was no smoke detector alarm sounding when firefighters arrived but that there was definitely two in the home.
“That might be possible and we just never found them,” Lesley said Nov. 12. “I can’t dispute that.”
The Millers were renters and homeowner Louis E. Houston, of Elsberry, is responsible for having smoke detectors in the rental, according to Jenne and City Inspector Kent Adams.
Although the smoke alarms were apparently present, “the house was overdue for a rental inspection,” Jenne said.
Adams said the last time he inspected the home was Oct. 6, 2010. Smoke detectors were functioning in the home then, a city code requirement to pass a rental inspection.
Neither Adams or Houston could recall when the Millers moved into the rental.
Adams said he has been unable to meet the city’s requirement to inspect the rental once every two years since Oct. 10, 2010. City law also calls for an inspection when a property is sold but kept as a rental, Adams said.
Adams sent Houston letters this year dated May 9 and Aug. 29 informing him that his rental was due for inspection, according to city records. The city’s inspection protocol calls for an owner to pay a fee with the city water department in order to schedule the inspection.
“He’s 13 months overdue for his inspection,” Adams said on Monday, Nov. 11.
Adams added that there are a lot of rental inspections in the city that are currently overdue “by at least one year.”
The building inspector said his problem is that current city ordinances do not give him the authority to enforce those inspections. Adams brought that up before the city council on Monday, Nov. 4 and said he will do so again in the near future.
Houston said Tuesday, Nov. 11 he was under the impression that the inspection at 405 S. Main St. had been paid for and completed. Houston has a number of rental units in Louisiana, but he was not willing to disclose how many.
Adams’ letter on Aug. 29 seeks inspections on 10 different properties Houston owns in the city. All of them were due to be paid for and inspected by Sept. 30.
“I try to be a good landlord,” Houston said. “There should have been smoke detectors in there, at least two of them,” Houston said about the S. Main St. rental. “It had smoke detectors when it was inspected and they moved in. We’re required to have them.
Houston said is was possible city firefighters did not see the smoke detectors after the blaze because of the extensive damage.
“I guess I’ll have to prove there were smoke detectors in there,” he said.
“It’s sad when this kind of thing happens. It’s hard for me to deal with this.
“I’m passionate about children. I would absolutely do nothing to hinder (the safety) of children.”
Attempts to reach the Millers for comment were unsuccessful.