When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Kids with Matches

matchesFour events. Four stories. 9 kids; 7 of them are dead. One outcome: parents in jail after kids left home alone started fires, or couldn’t get away when fires started for some reason other than firebug/experimenting kids.

Why can kids start fires? Where do they get the matches, lighters and ideas?

Well, what’s the over-under on all of these parents being smokers? Some of them maybe even of tobacco!

Item 24 Feb 16: Stripper’s 2-year-old, Left Alone, Dies in Fire

And mom Leila Aquino was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment. Mom first said she hired a babysitter, and then admitted that her babysitter was the TV. And yes, the soi-disant “child welfare authorities” had been to the home over neglect before.

Item 11 Jul 16: Mom Goes to Prison for Death of Four Kids Left Alone

She still denies it, but… well, she used a form of guilty plea.

Hope Hawkins, the mother of two girls and two boys, ages 10 months to 4 years, had entered an Alford Plea in October before Judge Paul Burch in Darlington County.

Also known as an Alford Guilty Plea, the declaration allows a defendant to enter a guilty plea without admitting to committing a crime.

After her four children perished in the 2013 fire, Hawkins, then 21, was charged with multiple counts, including involuntary manslaughter.

Authorities claimed that Hawkins had left the four young children home alone when fire swept through the family’s mobile home.

Her relatives demanded that people “stop judging her.” The judge declined to take that advice.

Item 16 Sep 16: Mom Arrested after 2-year-old Twins Found Dead

Investigators can’t tell why the fire started. Or, for that matter, where Mom was. They do know where she wasn’t.

Heather Ace, 25, was away from her Batavia home on May 20, a fire broke out inside or near her twin boys’ first floor bedroom, officials said.

That blaze proved lethal, as Michael and Micah Gard died of smoke inhalation, authorities said. Their bodies were found inside their room.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

“Usually we are pretty adept at isolating the cause and then using that to further whatever investigation it may turn out to be,” Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster told WIVB-TV. “Sometimes it’s accidental, sometimes it’s criminal, sometimes we don’t know. And this particular case was a we don’t know.”

Ace’s landlord reportedly had plans to evict Ace before the fire erupted, telling the television station he did not like the amount of “traffic coming and going” from the home.

Lifestyles of the Poor and Wretched, Nº 32767.

Item 12 Nov 16: Florida parents jailed after kids burn down home.

Florida. Although one wonders what the nationality status of the parents may be. The story:

The boys, 6 and 8, reportedly told police that they were playing with a lighter and lit a cup on fire before putting it in a drawer inside their bedroom.

The fire then spread.

Police said a neighbor was driving past their home around 3 p.m. when she spotted smoke coming from the roof.

The woman pulled over and tried to get the boys out of the house, police said.

“She motioned for the children to come to her, but they went back inside,” Osceola County sheriff’s spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain said. “She ran into the residence and brought them outside.”

Jonathan Lopez-Banos, 30, and Rosmarie Medina-Arroyo, 36, were reportedly at work during the incident and are now facing child-neglect charges.

For the kids, it’s out of the fire, and straight into Hell: the Florida Department of Children and Families has seized them, now.

7 thoughts on “When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Kids with Matches

  1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

    The horror of domestic fires now is that they ramp up to flashover so much more quickly than 40 years ago.

    In our VFD’s training, we’ve seen films from UL (Underwriter’s Labs) that show the time to flashover of a simulated room fire in a house. The UL test was to compare home construction/furnishings combustion rates & byproducts of today vs. the early 1970’s.

    I’ll just bottom-line it for you:

    The time to flashover for a 1970’s room was (as I recall from the training) about 29+ minutes.

    The time to flashover for a modern room was 3:40. Less than four minutes.

    NB, when firefighters use the term “flashover,” we don’t mean backdraft or rollover. Flashover for a firefighter is the point where the fire has produced so much combustible gas/smoke that is burning up high in the room that it has caused pyrolysis of even the carpet or flooring in the room, giving off yet more combustible vapor products, and the rapid rise in heat at floor level leads to sudden full involvement of everything in the room.

    Not even in bunkers with a SCBA is a flashover survivable.

    People in a fire in a modern mobile home or manufactured home (which typically have lighter, more modern construction with lots of resins in engineered wood) need to get out within the first 90 seconds of a fire to have a chance of living.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I found this fascinating, having never heard it before. Here’s a UL page on this exact thing:

      PDF with supporting data:

      Different flashover video here:

      Conclusion: don’t wanna be a firefighter.

      Thinking about it, the open floor plan of the ground floor of Hog Manor (constructed ca. 1992) is exactly one of the hazards they’re talking about. I was surprised how much poorer the fire safety of an I-joist engineered floor was in comparison to trad wooded joist construction (which is what we have). I wanted a home from the early 90s because I wanted the toilets to work, unlike the later EPA turd-and-stench retainers. Selfish of me, that.

      Anyway, I was thinking of the advantages of the open plan for observation and fields of fire.

      I would recommend to everyone CO2 detectors. I started using them in airplanes because it’s cold here, and airplane heaters use air heated in a sleeve around the exhaust manifold, or in twin engine planes, a separate combustion heater. (Can’t use an automotive style heater with air-cooled motors). A pinpoint leak in an exhaust system will put you gently to sleep in cruise phase, and you’ll wake up dead and cremated, along with whomever you landed on.

      Here is what may be the UL video that you saw, DG. Chilling indeed.

      1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

        Yes, that’s the video. We saw a longer form that was sent out to FD’s for training, but that side-by-side simulation was part of the video.

        NB the type, color and thickness of the smoke in the new construction simulated room. That thick, black, plastic/synthetic material smoke that fills up the upper 1/3 to 1/2 of the room volume within about a minute. That’s fuel, primed and ready to light off – which it does. But it’s so thick that you cannot see the flames dancing in that smoke-as-fuel layer unless you have an IR camera. We carry these IR hand-held cameras for just this reason – they let us see fire hidden by this thick smoke. They also allow us to find people in a room in the midst of smoke & steam.

        When that thick, black smoke has filled up the upper volume of a room, what you see develop on the IR cameras is that there is a boiling, turbulent layer of flame right up against the ceiling, burning at 800 to 1200F, completely hidden from your view from the floor (where we are, in our bunker gear with a hose) except for glimpses when the turbulence parts the smoke for a fraction of a second. We get to see this in live-fire simulators. The burning layer might be, oh, a foot to 18 inches “thick.” The smoke obscuring the burning layer might be 2′ thick below the burning layer. You can feel the IR radiation coming through your SCBA mask onto your face, but you can’t see (with your eyes) where the flames are.

        The SOP for our department (which again, is all volunteer, mostly middle-aged and older guys, and as such, we don’t go charging into burning buildings, full of testosterone and bravado unless there’s someone inside) is to constrain the airpaths into the building, find the seat of the fire and then “hit it hard from the yard,” ie, we knock out as small a window or piece of glass as we can, stick in a nozzle, and solid or pencil-stream water up onto the ceiling in a zig-zag or circular pattern. This cools that flaming layer of smoke & gas, and using a solid-ish stream gets the ceiling nice and wet and cool, while trying to generate as little steam as possible.

        By doing this, we’re trying to stop that progression where you see in the IR camera footage in your Modern Fire Behavior video of the heat boundary coming ever-lower in the room. By going first and hardest after that layer of burning smoke/gas at the ceiling, we can reduce temps in the room by 200 to 300F literally in seconds – which buys us time to make entry, and buys much more time for anyone in the room who is on the floor. The same tactic is used if we enter the structure – go after that flaming gas/smoke layer at the ceiling. This is how we can make the most of limited water in our trucks until we get the tenders going – since we have limited fire hydrant coverage in our community, we tend to think hard about how to make water go as far as possible.

        CO detectors are a good idea. Better yet, get the systems where if one alarm goes off, every alarm in the house goes off. In larger homes today, it is possible for smoke alarms to go off on the other side of the house and occupants sleep through it. This isn’t possible in the wired systems where, if one alarm goes off, they all go off. They’re noisy as hell itself, but the insure that no one misses the first alarm.

  2. Wysiwyg Mtwzzyzx

    Wow. Dyspeptic Gunsmith- as an Architect, I’d love to hear more about the details- why this is, what materials are major contributors to this, etc.

    At least the figures I’ve heard are that structure fires are much rarer now than they were decades ago, thanks largely to fire codes and things like UL listings.

    1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      Wysiwyg, please understand that I’m a volunteer, not a professional, so my training tends to skew towards what we need to deal with in our little community. I can’t speak to national trends, nor what you see in your markets/communities.

      In our corner of Wyoming, we have lots of older homes, many on ranches/farms that date from the 1900’s to 1970’s – and then the community went into a very slow-growth era from the mid-70’s until 2005 or so. Recently, we’ve seen some larger pieces of land sell and be broken up for property development, and we now see new houses built with the most modern materials. This is why the UL demonstrations were so important in our training. We don’t have many structure fires in our district, but the few we have had tend to be either in the classic construction homes (and some of these older homes are balloon-type houses with classic materials, which tends to accelerate full involvement of the structure) or the modular/pre-fab construction types.

      In the modern construction homes, what seems to take off the most are the furnishings, followed by resins in the engineered materials. Things like glue-lamination beams, and engineered joists really worry us, because it takes only a couple minutes’ exposure to heat and the joists break down quickly. This not only can accelerate fires, it endangers firefighters who can get dumped into basements or lower stories when the glue-lam or I-beam joists fail under them.

      Furnishings are now often made with synthetic (oil-based plastics), which when set alight, out-gas highly combustible smoke. In firefighting, we like to say “Smoke is fuel.” It is a saying that proves true when you see a “smoke explosion” in a structure fire – smoke can build up to a point in a confined space where all you need is just a little puff of fresh air and all that confined smoke now has enough O2 to light off – all at once. Examples of when this happens in a structure fire are when rooms (esp. their contents) get fully involved, but the doors and windows are closed. Eventually, the heat of combustion in the room will compromise a window, the glass cracks/breaks, air enters and now the room, pre-loaded with thick smoke, has the oxygen it needs to flashover all that smoke. Boom – out go the rest of the windows in the room, and perhaps the door as well – and now things really light up and accelerate.

      If I could wave a wand and change one or two things about housing construction and furnishing, it would be:

      1. Use as much solid lumber as possible. Use solid doors in the interior of a house. A solid door to a bedroom, when closed, buys the occupants so much more time in a house fire, it really can be the difference between life and death. BTW – sleeping with the doors closed in a house is good practice from a fire survival perspective.

      Hollow core doors buy time – but they’d buy so much more if they were filled with something like sheetrock gypsum. That’s difficult to obtain and use in construction, because they’d be exceedingly heavy to install, so solid wood is a good compromise.

      2. Get rid of as much synthetic furnishing, rugs, carpet, cloth, upholstery, etc as possible. Believe it or not, wool is a great fabric in the face of fire. I wear 100% wool underwear under my bunkers – not only because it keeps me warm (or cooler) when the water starts coming through the bunkers (which it will, crawling and slithering around on a floor where we’re pumping in lots of water/foam), but also because it will not continue to burn if exposed to flame, and then the flame is removed. Wool really doesn’t like to burn. If more furnishings, carpet, etc were made of wool, we’d have less of the horrible petroleum/plastic fumes and smoke that make structure fires accelerate so rapidly. As a side note, many of the combustion products of these modern synthetic products are highly dangerous to people’s health. Firefighters have kidney and testicular cancer rates several times that of the general population, and it is thought that even brief exposure to these modern combustion byproducts are highly carcinogenic. This is why we wash our bunkers after every fire, and only in the washing machine at the fire hall – never our home laundry machines. The smoke particles in the bunker fabric will eventually make the bunkers flammable, and who wants to be around this carcinogenic stuff one minute more than necessary?

      Modern synthetic materials are almost all uniformly a win from the standpoint of versatility, ease of installation and cost savings, and almost uniformly a big lose when the fire starts.

      To your final point: Yes, structure fires are MUCH more rare than they used to be. From the perspective of the fire service outside some urban areas with arson problems, structure fires have become a pretty rare event. Most (> 80%) of our runs are now medical calls, and most firefighters in our communities have dual/triple certifications today – structure, wildland and EMT.

  3. JAFO

    The scariest criminal defendants I ever dealt with in terms of potential loss of life was a group of about five boys ranging in age from 8 to 13 who were setting fires in the basements of apartment buildings. Their only motivations seemed to be boredom and fascination with fire, and they seemed completely unaware ofTher the potential costs of their actions.

    Luckily we were able to get them all off the street before anyone got hurt.

    1. Hognose Post author

      What are your results with juvenile programs and juvenile incarceration? I know the nature of the beast is that you don’t necessarily see the same people next time around, but the guys and gals in your office must have a feel for it.

      My belief (which could easily be wrong) is that failure or recidivism rates:

      1. Adult alcohol and drug rehab — about 90-95%
      2. Juvenile intervention programs, such as “alternative schools” and “residential treatment settings,” for chronic offenders — 90+%
      3. Adult criminal system for the first-time felon with a long sheet of misdemeanor priors and/or substance abuse — about 90%
      4. Adult criminal system for the first-time felon with no priors (relatively rare bird) — about 65%
      5. Adult criminal system for misdemeanor (or bullshit felony) offender with no priors — 50-50. Juvenile about the same.
      6. Juvenile system for serious but first-time offense — about 30% recidivism and 70% straightened up.

      This is based on lots of conversations with people. My late mother worked for years with special education, which includes juvenile offenders. All the “send em away” residential programs were great at spending state or fed money but did not work at all for rehabilitation. It was as if the kid himself and not the treatment applied to him was what determined the success or failure of the program.

      I know a guy who committed an armed robbery (!) as a juvenile (it’s a very deep secret in his life; neither of his wives knew, and the records are sealed). He was a high-functioning guy who thought he could get away with it. After the system stomped him (ISTR he was 16) he recalibrated his expectations and never violated again. The Army waived him in, the then-Central Clearance Facility considered the offense and the time period and cleard him for TS/SCI, and 1st SFOD-D Recruiting made him document it all over again, but waived him into Selection. (He didn’t select, medicaled out with an injury so he never got to the board). After the Army, he finished a bachelors’ degree and has worked (and still works) in positions of responsibility. Sure, he’s got a couple of Plaintiffs, but that’s pretty close to the median among SF guys.

      When he needed my assistance and disclosed his prior record, I was quite surprised. As you might expect for an SF guy, he was equally ashamed of having done it and having gotten caught. I *think* he’s a rare rehabilitation success story, but I think he did it with innate character. The system just delivered the shock he needed to wise up.

      In the end it comes down to character, and character is fixed really early; it is more innate than just inherited, and I believe that it is in part inherited (it’s no surprise that Chelsea Clinton gravitated to a husband whose father was in Federal prison for massive fraud when they tied the knot. Imagine what their kids will be like). In Westboro, MA, we didn’t have many of them, but we pretty much knew in 3rd Grade who among our cohort would have a lifetime of involvement in the judicial and corrections systems.

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