Akron Fire chief says landlord could be cited or charged after fire kills two children and parents

No smoke detectors found in rental property
Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 18:08:09-05

An Akron landlord could face possible citations or criminal charges because no smoke detectors were found in a house where two children and their parents were killed, according to Fire Chief Clarence Tucker.

Investigators are planning to meet with the city prosecutor to discuss the case.

Chief Tucker said firefighters did not see any evidence of the life-saving devices in the home which caught fire early Saturday morning on East Tallmadge Avenue.

While the chief said it was possible the flames could have burned up a smoke detector on the first floor, it was clear there were not any on the second floor where the kids were likely sleeping.

Tucker explained a city ordinance requires landlords to install working smoke detectors in rental properties. It's the responsibility of tenants to change the batteries.

"I believe that we would have a strong case to take to the law department to see if we could move forward with citations," Tucker said.

The blaze claimed the lives of Aniyla Riley, a 9-year-old fourth grader at Forest Hills Elementary and her 8-year-old sister, Shanice Riley, who was a third-grader at Seiberling Elementary.

Their father, Omar Riley, 36, and mother, Shirley Wallis, 33, were also killed.

12-year-old Shaniya Wallis survived the fire, as did an adult, Jennifer Koval.

Chief Tucker said a ruling on the cause of the fire has not been determined, but said food left on the stove was being examined as a possibility.

Grief counselors were on hand at Akron schools on Monday to help classmates deal with the tragedy.

At Seiberling Elementary, students decorated paper chains and left personal messages on a memory tree as a tribute to Shanice.

"It's just a place for our students to organize their thoughts and have somewhere they can put these sentiments and how they're feeling," said principal Jennifer Moff. "They're experiencing sadness and grief. They're also experiencing questioning. Some of them are feeling a little guilty that they didn't say goodbye on Friday."

This week, Chief Tucker said the Akron firefighters and the American Red Cross will install free smoke detectors in homes that don't have them, starting with the North Hill neighborhood where the tragedy happened.

"It's a high level of concern not just for this case in particular, but for the citizens of Akron period. Smoke detectors save lives."

Residents in need of smoke detectors should contact the Akron Fire Department at 330-375-2411.