Cause of Miami apartment fire undetermined, fire officials say

Apartment building subject of city lawsuit as explained in 'Call Christina' investigation


MIAMI – Miami Department of Fire Rescue officials said investigators were unable to determine the cause of a fire at an apartment complex that is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the city.

The fire was reported about 11 a.m. July 10 at 1710 NW First Court.

Local 10 News was at the scene as residents were evacuated. The front door of an apartment unit on the second floor was charred.

In a report obtained by Local 10 News, there were four units in total that were impacted by the fire.

"The analysis of the fire intensity and movement pattern indicated that the area of fire origin was in the bedroom" of unit 15, which was rented by Kapearl Hester, Lt. JC Llanes wrote in the report.

The cause of the fire has been classified as "undetermined ... as it was attributed to unknown cause at this time."

According to Llanes, "The mattress was fully involved and was the majority of the fuel load in the room. I found an exposed outlet on the wall where the bed was at. Unknown if wires was in contact with the mattress at the time of the fire."

Hester told investigators "that those wires were exposed for a while and that she had been shocked several times. She had reported it to the property mgr (Mark Mieres) on site about a month ago."

The report also states Leonard Flowers, which state records list as the registered agent for the company Denise Vaknin of New Jersey runs that owns the building, "stated that she has never talked to him about any electrical issues in the unit."

As Local 10 News reported on the day of the fire the apartment building is now in receivership after a judge granted the city's motion for receivership.

Hester denies smoking or having any lit candles in the room.

The report goes on to say that, "The electric utilities were in service at the time of the fire. There was no gas service to the property. The electrical wiring was protected by circuit breakers. The property appeared to have been maintained on a regular basis and was consistent with other properties in the area."

According to the incident report dated July 10, 2015, "This case is closed."

Local 10 News' Christina Vazquez previously investigated the building's owner, who racked up code violations.

In October, the city filed a lawsuit against six companies that at that time owned the nine properties in an effort to collect more than $2.4 million in unpaid fines.

In that lawsuit, the city claimed that the company that owns 1710 NW First Court owed more than $500,000 in "pending and recorded liens."

The suit also said that the building was in "a state of severe disrepair" and that "necessary fire suppression equipment is nonexistent."

A boy who lives in the apartment said he saw smoke and sparks coming from a cord in the living room and said his mother threw water on it to try to stop the fire.

The woman was treated for minor injuries at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

Authorities said the woman lived in the apartment with her three children.

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