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Northgate apartment fire victims families say smoke detectors did not work

By Alicia Naspretto

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    LACY LAKEVIEW, Texas (KXXV) — Victims of the Northgate apartment fire and families of the deceased are telling 25 News that they did not have adequate smoke alarms.

Kristopher Rowe was one of the victims, and his mother Erica Dennis is an apartment property manager. When she first heard her son died in an apartment fire, there was one question she just had to ask.

“I asked the fire investigator ‘Were there smoke alarms in every apartment?’. His answer was ‘In some, but not all’,” Dennis said.

“Right now, if there is any anger in my heart at all, it’s that a $10 smoke detector could’ve saved my son’s life.”

Being told that there were not fire alarms in every unit, families couldn’t help wonder if the outcome could have been different.

“If my sister had gotten there, she would’ve jumped out the window,” said Lacresia Vanya’s sister, Megan Taylor.

“There’s no way — she would’ve grabbed that dog and jumped out that window. There’s no doubt about it. She would’ve ran through flames if she was awake.”

Vanya and Rowe were found in their beds with their dog.

“They had a large dog. If that dog would’ve heard those alarms, he would’ve been barking at it,” Taylor said.

“That’s how I know the smoke got to them pretty quickly.”

“The apartment complex needs to be held accountable in some way because by law, the way I understand the law, apartments or duplexes in Texas is supposed to have those things,” said Marshall Burns’ uncle, Kerry Wheeler.

According to the Texas property code, landlords are responsible for installing at least one smoke detector in each bedroom of a rental unit and one in the hallway or common area as well.

Families say that didn’t happen at Northgate, but property manager Tabitha Milam said new smoke detectors were installed earlier that week and passed inspection just three days prior.

It’s unclear if any of the devices went off at all.

“Maybe Marshall still would’ve been here,” Wheeler said.

“Maybe the other two people still would’ve been here.”

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