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Landlord: South Plainfield Home Had Smoke Detectors

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(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

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SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ (CBSNewYork) – South Plainfield’s mayor says smoke alarms were not working in the home where five people were killed in a fire this week.

But while authorities continue to investigate the cause of the fast-moving blaze, the landlord, Gerado Avalos, said he there were smoke detectors inside the home and that all the detectors were working when he inspected them back in October.

“I don’t know whether they were removed,” Avelos said. “They probably did. I can’t tell you that.”

Meanwhile, police are still looking for a man who lived in the house, but has since vanished.  They say he lived in an apartment that adjoined the South Plainfield home and was there just before the fire began.

Four children and their grandmother died in the fire that broke out early Thursday morning. The children’s mother, Natalie Jefferson, and three of their siblings were able to escape.

Killed where 2-year-old Elijah, 3-year-old Christopher, 12-year-old Alize, 7-year-old Tyler and Jefferson’s mother, 62-year-old Ann Jefferson

Two-year-old Angel Taylor is missing her brothers and sister. She’s one of the children to survive what officials have called the worst house fire in the history of South Plainfield.

“I’m very, very thankful that I have my daughter,” said Angel’s father Robert Taylor. “I’m hurting that I don’t have my son.”

Taylor lost his 2-year-old son Elijah in the fire.

“I don’t know where the blames lies,” he said. “I just know we lost five, really good people.”

Investigators are still searching for a cause. They know the fire started on the first floor in the kitchen and then quickly spread to the top of the house, trapping the family inside.

Vera Harrell knew the grandmother well.

“She was so good, I can’t explain it to you,” Harrell said.

The fire department says there were smoke detectors, but for some reason they weren’t functioning.

For now, donations are being collected for the survivors of the blaze at the South Plainfield Senior’s Center. Clothing in all sizes is needed for the surviving children and their mother.

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