Deadly Palm Springs mobile home fire leaves lingering questions about park's safety

fire hydrant

THOUSAND PALMS - Years after a deadly mobile home fire in Palm Springs, questions remain about the safety of the mobile home park's fire suppression system.

Tina Davis, a neighbor who witnessed the fire, fears little has changed at the park since that deadly day in January 2010.

It was New Year's Day just before dawn -- Pamela Sanchez 11, Sergio Hernandez 7, Selena Hernandez 6, their mother Rosa Silva 30, and her boyfriend Telesforo Hernandez-Perez 32, were all presumed sleeping when the blaze erupted. Daughter Ciera Silva spent the night at an Aunt's house.

The mobile home located in the Windy Point area at Western Village Mobile Home Park was quickly aglow. Firefighters from three different companies responded but by the time they arrived the fire had fully engulfed the home.

Family and neighbors tried in vain to save the family trapped inside.

Tina Davis recalls the desperate attempt by onlookers to squelch the fire so rescuers could get into the home or the family could get out.

"The night of the fire, the uncles tried to use the fire hoses but the nozzle hose fell apart in their hands. They had no way of helping the children inside and basically had to stand there and watch the fire burn."

Tina has since moved from the community of Western Village but strongly believes ineffective and substandard fire suppression equipment played a significant role in the inability to save the family. She worries conditions are still unsafe for residents who remain in the village.

"The hoses have been left out in the sun to rot. They are not maintained and not tested. Basically its been like this for years and the sun out here just destroys the hoses.

Thomas Pacelli, Director of Operations for J AND H Property Management, runs Western Village. Although not present during the fire, Pacelli argues two of his employees used two stand-pipe hydrants to fight the fire until firefighters arrived. 

Davis vehemently disagrees, "The hydrant system that failed that night is still not safe."

California law requires Western Village to inspect fire suppression systems every five years. Documents we obtained reveal the county ordered the park in 2008, two years before the deadly fire, to make improvements including enclosing hoses in a weather resistant cabinet painted red and marked "FIRE HOSE" in 4 inch contrasting color.
Pictures we received, taken approximately a year after the fire on the same lot as the fire occurred, show a tangled hose exposed to the elements.
We tried to obtain copies of Western Village's 2013 inspection but none have been filed with the county.

Pacelli maintains the Park's last inspection took place in October of last year. He also contends they conduct annual inspections *and* quarterly inspections by their maintenance manager.

Ciera, the 13 yr-old daughter who stayed away the night of the fire now lives in Arizona with her husband and her infant son.   

Cal Fire tells us the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

In response to our investigation--Riverside County Department of Environmental Health began its own investigation.

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