On May 14, 2016, a fire blamed on a carelessly discarded cigarette erupted on the front porch of a house at 6152 Robb Street in Arvada.
The house was a “host home” – a place for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities to live in a residential setting with caregivers. The flames swept up the home’s front wall, burned into the attic, and entered the living room and a bedroom that had been built in the garage, a room where a woman with cerebral palsy lived. That woman, Tanya Bell, was the first to notice the fire, calling 911 just before 1:30 a.m. that Saturday.
She would die. So would two others – a woman named Cristina Covington and her 4-year-old daughter, Marielle. They were staying at the home with Covington’s mother, whose partner, Liz Turner, was the caregiver for Tanya Bell and the home’s other disabled resident.
A 9Wants to Know investigation found numerous fire hazards in the home – doors and windows that were blocked, a fire alarm system that had been shut off. All of that allowed by Colorado law, which places no special fire safety standards on host homes.
Fire investigators concluded that the blaze began after the home’s caregiver, Liz Turner, and her partner, Shana Moore, went out onto the front porch to smoke cigarettes. The women told police they snuffed out the cigarettes, put them into an empty cigarette box, and eventually put that into a wicker table on the front porch. Investigators believe the cigarettes smoldered for an hour or more before erupting in flames and burning up the front wall and into the home.
The fire burned through the porch roof and into the main living area and spread into Tanya Bell’s bedroom.
Tanya Bell, a 39-year-old woman who was legally blind and had cerebral palsy and other disabilities, lived in a bedroom built in the home’s former garage. She called 911 but was overcome with noxious smoke and heat before firefighters were able to reach her. The door out of her room led to the main living area, and an escape window was blocked by a table and other clutter.
Firefighters fought to break open the back door into the kitchen only to find a stand-up freezer blocked their path.CRISTINA AND MAREILLE'S BEDROOMCristina Covington and her daughter Marielle, 4, were staying in this room. They were Shana Moore’s daughter and granddaughter, and they followed her into Arthur’s room in the chaos of the fire and got lost in the smoke.ARTHUR’S BEDROOM
Arthur, a 34-year-old man with autism, lived in this bedroom, which had a door to the backyard. However, that door was deadbolted shut, and nobody had the key.
LIZ AND SHANA’S BEDROOM
Caregiver Liz Turner and her partner, Shana Moore, were in their basement bedroom when the fire broke out.MAX’S BEDROOMMoore’s teenage son was in his basement bedroom when the fire started.LAUNDRY ROOMThe window out of this bedroom had security bars over it and prevents Turner and Moore’s son from escaping that way.Note: The GIF above shows helmet cam video from Arvada Fire Rescue demonstrating the bars on the basement window. If you can't see the GIF, click here: http://gph.is/2h9QFEU