California has a strict set of building codes that are intended to ensure the safety of visitors and tenants. Stairways, for example, must all be a certain width. Doors must open outwards. Railings must be a certain height. And buildings that were not designed for habitation cannot be used as apartments without modifications.
This last rule, it seems, may have been violated in a tragic fire that left one woman with serious burns. The incident took place in the early morning hours in Compton, California. A fire broke out in a detached garage -- a serious danger made even more hazardous by the fact that several people were apparently living there at the time.
Two men escaped the blaze with minor to moderate injuries. A third occupant, a woman, was not so lucky. She survived the fire, but suffered third-degree burns across much of her body. The two men were sent to UCLA Medical Center, while the woman was sent to a hospital in Lynwood. There is no word on her current condition.
Police say they are investigating the fire, and arson inspectors are on the scene. Officers say the garage was being used as living quarters by the three occupants; one official characterized it as "more of a flop house than a living situation."
Flop houses are illegal dormitories that house many people in very cramped, often unsanitary quarters. Flop houses also represent a greater fire danger than other buildings, as they are rarely up to code. Often, the owner of such a building can be held liable for the injuries suffered by his or her tenants.
There is still a great deal we do not know about this case; police will undoubtedly be looking for the source of the fire and examining the living situation of the garage's tenants. Officers say their investigation is ongoing.
South Gate-Linwood Patch, "Woman Left Behind in Burning Garage Critically Injured" Mirna Alfonso, Oct. 12, 2013