May 18, 2024

Home Inspection

Home Inspection, Primary Monitoring for Your Home

South Bend home damaged in fire that killed 6 children failed safety inspection last summer

3 min read

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – The property manager of the South Bend home that caught fire last weekend and took the lives of six children was reportedly hit with several violations last summer.

When the South Bend Housing Authority met this week, they discussed this tragic blaze.

“The new director of the South Bend Public Housing Authority raised concerns about the home on LaPorte Avenue that burned,” said Jordan Smith from our reporting partners at the South Bend Tribune.

That was Marsha Parham-Green. And after she raised her concerns, Jordan Smith started doing what journalists have done for generations — he started digging.

Smith looked back to last year when the home was part of the Housing Choice Voucher program.

“That home just six months before had failed a federal safety inspection, and one of the main hazards cited in that inspection was an electrical problem throughout the entire home,” Jordan said.

Jordan learned an inspection report was delivered on July 19, 2023, to South Bend-based WJM Property Management, who had the LaPorte Avenue house listed as Section 8 housing at the time. 10 violations were found, revealing electrical problems throughout the home. Many of the home’s outlets didn’t work, and some were reportedly even burned.

Jordan, though, reports the landlord WJM Property Management failed to fix the many problems cited in the inspection within 30 days, and the housing authority moved the family living there out.

The home was then no longer part of the voucher program and therefore no longer subject to inspections. In October, David Smith and his family moved in.

Tragedy then struck this past Sunday, as five of David’s children died in the immediate aftermath of a violent fire. A sixth child died from her injuries on Friday morning. The South Bend Fire Department says it had the blessing of the Smith family to release the names of those children earlier this week:

  • Angel Smith, 11
  • Demetris Smith, 10
  • Davida Smith, 9
  • Deontay Smith, 5
  • D’Angelo Smith, 4
  • Faith Smith, 17 months

Two firefighters were also injured in this tragedy. One firefighter, identified as Roy White, fell through the second floor of the home while trying to save the children who were trapped inside. White is now at home after a short stay at the hospital and will be off duty until further notice. Another firefighter suffered minor burns and was treated and released to return to work.

A memorial has formed outside the home in the 200 block of N. LaPorte Avenue as the community...
A memorial has formed outside the home in the 200 block of N. LaPorte Avenue as the community continues to mourn the loss of six young lives.(WNDU)

The owner of WJM confirmed to Jordan that the company still manages the LaPorte Avenue property. Records show that the owner is based in Dallas, Texas, and owns seven other properties across South Bend.

The owner of WJM says the company had made all the necessary repairs to the house before David and his children moved in, and that there were no open work orders at the time of the fire. There have been no city inspections, though, to confirm that assertion.

Investigators at the South Bend Fire Department say they are aware of the concerns raised by the failed inspection and are interviewing previous tenants of the home. Officials will subpoena the housing authority’s inspection reports.

To be clear, no official cause or origin of the fire has been announced at this time.

“The fire department stresses they don’t know where the fire started or why it started, but the tenant who was the father to those six children, David Smith, said in a video on Facebook that he had electrical problems in the home. He said it seemed that only two of the outlets were working,” Jordan said.

The city is also responding. Mayor James Mueller tells Jordan, “We’re trying to figure out how to identify and put the resources toward those problematic landlords. Oftentimes they’re out-of-state landlords.”

If you live in South Bend and you have any rental safety concerns, you can call and report them at 311. Property owners can also sign up for inspections sp they can be issued a certificate of rental safety.

To read Jordan Smith’s full article in the South Bend Tribune, click here.

Stay up to date on local news with WNDU on-air and online. Be sure to download the 16 News Now App and follow our YouTube page as we continue to bring you the latest coverage on this developing story.

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