Arcadio Lopez Castrejon, a 41-year-old Isla Vista resident, and his seven-year-old son, Fabian Arcadio Lopez, died early in the morning on Friday, Nov. 30, after a fire raged through their 6651 Picasso Rd. apartment.
Leonor Lopez, 41, the mother, is still listed in serious condition at the intensive care unit of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Christian Lopez, the couple’s five-year-old son, is in a pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the hospital and is now listed in fair condition, down from critical condition.
“The little boy is doing much better,” hospital Spokesperson Janet O’Neill said. “He’s still in the pediatric ICU, but he’s listed in fair condition and no longer needs help breathing. … The mother still needs help breathing, from damage to the lung – she also has serious external burns.”
Investigators have not released any information regarding the cause of the fire, Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Captain Charlie Johnson said Wednesday.
“They have not released any definitive answers on the origin or cause,” he said. “It’s still under investigation. [On Monday] around five o’clock, the investigators turned the building back over to the property managers after they finished the physical examination. For the last two days they’ve been following up, interviewing people at the scene.”
Johnson said that family and friends say the couple didn’t smoke or use candles, but that this information is “second hand.”
“The investigators haven’t confirmed any of it,” he said. “The building did have a smoke-alarm system in each room. If they were working, the question is, why didn’t [the residents] respond?”
Johnson said six fire engines and two other vehicles carrying about 45 emergency officers, including police and firemen, responded to 9-1-1 calls from the apartment complex around 3:30 a.m. on Friday. Approximately 60 residents had to be evacuated from the 18-unit complex.
“There were numerous reporting parties – the fire was highly visible. The first call came in at 3:38 in the morning. When our crew arrived, there were flames and smoke billowing out of the front windows and kitchen window,” he said. “The firemen had to go in with hose lines and knock down the fire first in order to gain entry for search and rescue. They sent search and rescue within moments of the fire being knocked down.”
Johnson said the fire was contained to the front of the house, while the family was found in the back, where there was primarily smoke and heat damage.
“The way the apartment is set up is the kitchen and living room are in the front. The occupants were trapped in the back two bedrooms,” he said. “There was a tremendous amount of heat – the aluminum frames around the windows melted. I believe that aluminum melts around 1200 degrees [and] the windows are only three and a half, four feet off the ground – the ceiling temperature was much higher.”
Johnson said that while Arcadio was pronounced dead at the scene, the other three family members were transported to the hospital. Firefighters and rescue workers attempted to resuscitate Fabian, but he died before reaching the hospital.
Johnson said the fire was traumatic for everyone involved, including firefighters.
“It’s not any easy thing. … This is obviously tragic for the community as a whole. We’re going to be doing outreach with the residents of the apartment complex and I.V. school,” he said. “It’s extremely sad.”