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8.1.18 – MyStatesman.com – By Bianca Quilantan – American-Statesman Staff

Posted: 3:39 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The father of a man who died in the July 20 Iconic Village Apartment fire in San Marcos is suing the property’s owners and managers for gross negligence, premises liability and wrongful death.

Phillip Miranda is the father of 23-year-old James Miranda, who was among the five people killed in the fire. His lawsuit, filed Monday, says the property’s fire alarms “failed to effectively activate to warn all residents.”

“The apartment complex did not have functioning fire sprinkler(s) and/or suppression system in place,” the suit says.

Iconic Village is owned by San Marcos Green Investors LLC and managed by Elevate Multifamily LLC and Deborah Jones. Representatives for Elevate Multifamily said their “company policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation.”

The lawsuit accuses the owners and managers of failing to enforce adequate safety protocols, maintain a safe living environment, adequately inspect and test fire alarm systems, train its employees and warn of dangerous hazards at the apartment complex, among other claims.

“As a result of the defendants’ actions and inactions, multiple residents were trapped and killed in the apartment fire on July 20, 2018,” the suit says.

The suit also claims the apartment complex’s living conditions “posed an unreasonable risk of harm” and says the property’s owners and managers “had a duty to either warn (James) Miranda of this unreasonably dangerous condition, or make the unreasonably dangerous condition reasonably safe.”

Phillip Miranda is asking for a trial by jury and is seeking $1 million in damages.

In July, Elevate Multifamily told the American-Statesman that it began managing Iconic Village and the adjacent Vintage Pads apartments in June 2017. The company said it regularly checks the smoke detectors. One-, two- and three-bedroom units have one smoke detector in each bedroom and one in the hallway. Efficiency apartments have one smoke detector.

“Every smoke detector in every unit is inspected on a regular basis,” the management company said in an emailed statement. “During these inspections, the maintenance team tests the functionality of every detector. If necessary, new detectors are installed.”

Each of the three buildings affected by the fire was inspected just months before the incident. Iconic Village’s Building 500, which had the most damage, was inspected May 4; the adjacent Building 300 was inspected May 9; and Building L at Vintage Pads was inspected June 27, the company said.

On Tuesday, authorities in San Marcos concluded the on-scene portion of their investigation into the fire.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traveled to San Marcos shortly after the fire to take control of the case at the request of San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens.

City officials said the ATF’s National Response Team identified where the fire started, but authorities did not release that location. Investigators conducted more than 100 interviews related to the incident, and authorities said they are working to determine the cause of the fire.

Initial findings from investigators showed that battery-powered smoke alarms were installed in individual apartments, and that inspections of the alarms had been completed recently, city officials said.

The last fire inspection at the apartments was conducted May 6, 2014, by fire marshal personnel, more than four years before the fire, officials said.

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