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Testimony resumes in Alpine fire case over faulty fire alarm system

Testimony in the manslaughter case against the owner of the Alpine Motel Apartments continued on Monday with defense attorneys again questioning a representative from a company that has been accused of failing to maintain the building’s fire alarm system.

More than two years ago, EDS Electronics Operations Manager Erin Stevens testified about how the alarm company could not reach the building’s owner, Adolfo Orozco, to report an alarm that had gone off on Nov. 28, 2019. When a blaze broke out in the building the following month, the Alpine’s fire alarms did not work and the building had no functioning sprinkler system, prosecutors have said.

The blaze was the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history, leaving six people dead, 13 injured and dozens without shelter. At the end of the preliminary hearing, Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman is expected to determine if there is enough evidence for Orozco and property manager Malinda Mier to stand trial.

The preliminary hearing began in 2020 but was delayed for more than two years after an investigator working for Orozco’s defense team refused to testify. The hearing resumed last month after the Nevada Supreme Court found that the investigator could be held in contempt of court.

EDS was also one of the defendants named in a consolidated lawsuit that reached a confidential settlement earlier this month.

Stevens has previously testified that on Nov. 28, 2019, the building’s alarm issued a “trouble signal.”

EDS realized after the fire that buttons on the alarm had been pressed that incapacitated the system, Stevens has said. The alarm remained active, but silent, until the deadly fire broke out on Dec. 21, 2019, and had continued to send malfunctioning signals to National Monitoring Center, the company that helped EDS monitor the alarm.

An employee with the National Monitoring Center had contacted the Las Vegas Fire Department about nine hours after the first malfunction on Nov. 28, 2019, but the Fire Department did not send anyone to check on the building, Stevens testified.

“They basically said that they wouldn’t do anything with the trouble signal unless there was a report of an actual fire,” Stevens testified.

He also testified that the National Monitoring Company’s policy was not to call the Fire Department again, even after the signal continued to trigger over the next month.

A guard contracted with EDS went to the property after the first trouble signal but was unable to contact Orozco. Evans testified that EDS had tried to get updated contact information for Orozco three separate times in 2019.

But Gentile also questioned Evans about an email Orozco sent to EDS, when he asked an employee to call him about a payment, even though EDS didn’t have his updated contact information listed on its documents.

“Can we infer that there was a phone call?” Gentile asked.

“That’s what it appears to be,” Stevens testified.

Testimony is expected to resume on Tuesday.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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