Police ID victim of fatal apartment fire in Mesa


by Catherine Holland

Video report by Gibby Parra

Posted on October 17, 2012 at 7:25 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 22 at 7:38 AM

Map: U.S. 60 and Extension

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MESA, Ariz. -- A Mesa man is dead after fire ripped through his apartment early Wednesday morning.

Police have identified that man as Daniel M. Montoya. The 29-year-old was listed as the resident of the department.

It happened shortly before 2 a.m. at a complex on Extension Road just south of the U.S. 60 Superstition Freeway.

Firefighters discovered Montoya's body just inside his front door. He has not been identified and no information about him was immediately available.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, the location of the smoke and the number of residents making their way downstairs led them to believe the fire was on the second floor. They soon discovered that the fire had made its way upstairs from the patio below.

Once they figured out the fire was on the ground floor, they quickly forced their way into the burning unit. That's when they found Montoya. It will be up to the medical examiner to determine exactly how he died.

Investigators are trying to determine what sparked the fire. They say there were numerous cigarette butts by a couch in the living room of the apartment, but they are not jumping to any conclusions and are not ruling anything out. they do not, however, believe the fire was suspicious in nature.

Firefighters were able to contain the flames to two units -- the downstairs unit, which was the source of the fire, an the apartment above. The bulk of the damage was to the back of the two apartments.

There was a hard-wired smoke detector in the apartment. Because the device was hard-wired rather than battery operated, firefighters believe it was functioning properly when the fire broke out.

Eight people were evacuated while crews dealt with the flames. Seven have been allowed to return home.

The eighth person lived right above the burned unit and will be displaced for some time.

No other injuries were reported.

Firefighters reminded people to make sure they have an escape plan should they find themselves caught in a fire.

"We don't know if this would have changed the outcome in this situation," said Capt. Forrest Smith of the Mesa Police Department. "The idea is to know what to do and where you're going to go in case you have a fire.

"We also know that smoke rises," he continued. "It leaves that little area of more clear air, so we know you have a better chance of survivability if you crawl out. ... You always want to make sure you have some plan in place. ... You always want to make sure you place for the worst-case scenario."

Firefighters suggest you have two ways out of every room in the house, if possible, and a safe place for everyone to meet.

Smith said it's not only important to have an escape plan, but it's also essential to practice it so everybody in the family knows exactly what to do should the worst happen.