Edited to protect the innocent
About the only thing worse than losing all your possessions in a structure fire (besides your life of course) is to later have a lawyer publicly brand you as the culprit who caused the conflagration.
As another lawyer so famously asked of a bully on network TV, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"
According to the Amherst Fire Department the cause of the 9/13/12 blaze at #28 Hobart Lane was "accidental" and "undetermined".
But according to Attorney Farber, hired gun for property owner Grandonico Properties, LLC, the blaze was caused by an occupant of a (illegal) basement bedroom.
Oddly, he puts forth a scenario that is remarkably close to an another fire that occurred in South Amherst over a year before due to the Halloween Snowmageddon storm. A young lady was drying her hair when the power went out, so she dropped the hairdryer on the bed and a few days later when the power finally returned, puff.
The fire department report clearly traces the fire origin to a bedside table, not the bed itself. Miss X also reports she does not own a "curling iron."
Yes the Hobart Lane basement area had one smoke detector but it was too badly damaged in the fire to determine if it was in proper working order. Either way, with a basement illegally subdivided into two bedrooms, three smoke detectors are required and they need to be hardwired rather than battery operated.
Plus the entire basement area has only one window as a second means of egress, so the person with the bedroom that did not have a window could easily be trapped and turned into toast.
#28 Hobart Lane: One basement window, two bedrooms
The other vital safety equipment missing that day was a carbon monoxide detector. Attorney Farber even admits there were none, and that the Gilreath Manor complex uses gas water heaters located in -- you guessed it -- the basement.
In fact, a safety inspection immediately after the fire discovered one of the water heaters was not operating properly because it was covered by a blanket, a potential two-way death sentence by carbon monoxide poisoning, or a gas explosion.
Attorney Farber also admitted Miss X had concerns over unlabeled fire extinguishers. Since there were no labels on them she would not have known they only contained water and therefore, should NOT be used on an electrical fire, which would have only made things worse.
Miss X also confirms she never tested any smoke detectors in the basement, only on the first floor, as she was unaware there was even one there. The fire department inspector found one on the second floor was not working on the day of the fire and issued the Grandonicos a $100 fine.
ZBA Chair Eric Beal (also an attorney) was obviously upset by the written testimony put before his board, and he spent a fair amount of time "reading it into the public record".
Just as obvious on display -- via attorney Farber -- was the Grandonicos wish to place blame anywhere but where it belongs: on them.
As a result, a hard working young woman who -- through no fault of her own -- suffered the trauma of losing possessions to fire, gets thrown under a burning bus.
To quote that iconic theme song of the 60s, "What do you do when you're branded, will you fight for your name?"