Family of woman killed in Alpine fire sues alarm companies

The family of a woman who died in the Alpine Motel Apartments fire in 2019 filed a complaint this week against the companies that maintained the building’s fire alarm system.

Six people died in the fire on December 21, 2019, making it the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history. Tracy Cihal’s family filed a lawsuit in district court on Wednesday against the owners of the Alpine and other companies in charge of safety equipment.

Cihal’s family had previously filed a wrongful death complaint against the owner of the building, Adolfo Orozco. A jury trial in the case is scheduled for October.

When the fire broke out, the Alpine’s back door was locked, the fire alarm system was malfunctioning and the building did not have a working sprinkler system, according to previous court documents.

“These actions were reckless, reckless, willful, gratuitous, and done with a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others, including the late Tracy Ann Cihal, who was unable to escape the fire through the back door because that the door was locked, ”attorneys Robert Eglet, Tracy Eglet and Danielle Miller wrote.

At the time of the fire, the building constructed in 1972 had spent almost three years without a city fire inspection. In the process, investigators cited more than 40 fire code violations, including the sealed rear exit and a faulty fire alarm system.

Orozco and former Alpine manager Malinda Mier each face six counts of manslaughter, as well as multiple other felony charges, in connection with the fire.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the named defendants include Nevada-based EDS Electronics Inc., which monitored the building’s fire alarm system with assistance from the California-based National Monitoring Center.

According to documents filed with the court, a fire alarm in the building was triggered on November 28, 2019 and the system was subsequently incorrectly reset. EDS Electronics received a signal that the system was malfunctioning every 24 hours, until the fire.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Orozco claimed that EDS had not informed him of the malfunction of the alarm. But company director Erin Stevens said in August 2020 that the company was unable to reach Orozco.

It was only after the fire, Stevens said, that EDS realized that buttons had been pushed in, which disabled the alarm system.

Wednesday’s lawsuit was also filed against Cooper Wheelock Inc., which fabricated a “strobe horn” fire alarm in the building that did not go off in the 2019 fire, court records show.

The companies did not immediately respond to the request for comment. Orozco’s lawyers also did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Cihal was a 57-year-old widow who lived downstairs and used a walker to get around. His body was found in the hallway of the Alpine, near the locked door, according to court records.

Investigators later determined that the fire originated from an unattended stove in one of the apartments. Although the exact cause of the fire remains unknown, it was deemed accidental.

Lawyers for Cihal’s family did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at [email protected] or 702-383-0240. To follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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