The Compton City Council unanimously approved an emergency measure Wednesday to reclaim jurisdiction over mobile home parks within its boundaries, saying the move is necessary to prevent fires like the one that killed a woman and two of her grandchildren last weekend.
The council action rescinds a 1982 resolution that ceded control over the city's dozen or so mobile home parks to the state Housing and Community Development Department.
Starting Monday, Compton fire and building inspectors will visit mobile home parks within the city limits to determine how many are not hooked up to hydrants. Fire Department Battalion Chief James Murphy said only two of the parks are believed to have working hydrants.
The city's action comes three days after Saveriana Santana, 53, died in a fast-moving blaze at El Rancho Mobile Home Park, along with grandson Christian Alejandro del Campo, 10, and granddaughter Veronica del Campo, 8.
Firefighters were hampered in battling the blaze Sunday because the four hydrants recently installed at the park were not hooked up to the city's water main, in part due to a three-way dispute among the mobile home park owner, the city and the state.
The firefighters ultimately hooked their hoses to a hydrant about 1,200 feet from the mobile home, which was destroyed in the blaze along with an adjacent unit.
Murphy said the mobile home did not have working smoke detectors, which gave the fire extra time to spread. Seven people were sleeping in the home when the fire broke out. The children's mother and brother survived, along with Santana's boyfriend and another guest who was sleeping in the living room.
Inspectors also will check mobile homes for smoke detectors, as well as the safety of metal security bars on windows, Murphy said. After the citywide inspections, officials will decide whether to require owners of the parks to install working fire hydrants and smoke detectors.
Since El Rancho Mobile Home Park owner Joseph Corda put in the hydrants, Compton has been trying to get him to pay about $17,000 to hook them up to city water mains. Corda spent $50,000 installing the hydrants and said the city should pay for the hookups.
The state housing department then interceded at Corda's request, saying the city couldn't force him to pay for the hookups since it no longer had jurisdiction over mobile home parks.
In the wake of the fatal fire, Compton officials said Monday that they would pay for the El Rancho hookups. But city spokesman Frank Wheaton said Wednesday that the council didn't vote to provide the money because Corda volunteered Tuesday to cover the cost, not knowing the city's position. Corda said Wednesday that he had agreed to pay on the presumption that the city wasn't going to. Now, he said, the city should keep its word and fund the hookups.
Wheaton said he hadn't heard of Corda's reluctance. "I'm sure the city will be proactive and will make certain the hydrants are hooked up," Wheaton said. He said the hookups could be performed as early as next week.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is almost complete, Murphy said, adding that the blaze started in the kitchen area. "We feel comfortable the fire was accidental," he said.