Santa Clarita family forced from home by fire, struggles each day

Carmen Navarro and her sons Jesus and Diego Cruz walk at Golden Valley Park in Santa Clarita on Jan. 23, 2017. The family is battling to return to their home after a fire damaged their apartment. Austin Dave/The Signal

A lot of people struggle to make ends meet in the Santa Clarita Valley, but few share the enormity of Carmen Navarro’s struggle – forced from her home by fire Friday, behind in the rent, now displaced and homeless with two young sons, one suffering from muscular dystrophy.

The woman, her husband who works landscaping, and her sons Diego, 7, and Jesus, 10, who’s confined for the most part to a wheelchair, have been staying at a motel since Friday.

On Friday afternoon, fire broke out in the garage of the family’s apartment at the Park Sierra Apartments on the 27300 block of Rock Rose Lane in Canyon Country, Fire Specialist Randall Wright told The Signal.

Firefighters responding to the fire reported seeing smoke and flames coming from the downstairs garage of the Navarro’s apartment. They extinguished the fire within 15 minutes and stopped the fire from extending into the living quarters.

Water damage to the apartment from firefighters’ efforts, however, has made the apartment uninhabitable.

Firefighters examine a charred apartment building at Park Sierra Apartments in Canyon Country on Jan. 19, 2018. Austin Dave/The Signal

Displaced by the damage, members of the local Red Cross put up the family of four in the Travelodge motel on Sierra Highway.

The $900 given to the family by the Red Cross for food, shelter and clothing, according to Navarro, was whittled down to $130 by Tuesday.

Repairs to the Navarro apartment are expected to be completed in 60 days, leaving the family homeless until then.

“The only damage is the water damage,” Carmen Navarro told The Signal on Tuesday.  “When I asked about moving to another rental unit, the manager said ‘I have bad news. Your apartment won’t be ready for 60 days.’

“I need a place to live,” Navarro said, adding she needs special accommodations her son’s powered wheelchair.

Her oldest son, Jesus, suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is caused by a mutation in a gene on the X-chromosome that prevents the production of dystrophin, a normal protein in muscle. It mainly affects boys, rarely girls. Those with the ailment experience weakness in the pelvis and upper limbs, resulting in frequent falling, an unusual gait and general weakness.

Normally, a specially equipped school bus takes Jesus and his power chair to and from Valley View Community School. Now left with a manual wheelchair, Carmen Navarro struggles to get her son in and out of the electric wheelchair, she said.

To make matters worse, Jesus, broke his leg with a fall in August, adding to the difficulty of helping him.

Carmen Navarro and her sons Jesus and Diego Cruz walk at Golden Valley Park in Santa Clarita on Jan. 23, 2017. The family is battling to return to their home after a fire damaged their apartment. Austin Dave/The Signal

And, while a 60-day wait to move back home is difficult, Navarro said she’s not certain her family will be permitted back after having received a notice for a late rental payment in November.

When contacted for word on help extended to the family beyond Tuesday, a spokesman for the Red Cross said: “Because of HIPAA confidentiality laws we cannot disclose any information.”

Privacy laws were spelled out in 1996 with the introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which set standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information. Those standards prevents the release of information to the news media.

When Navarro asked apartment complex managers about the prospect of moving back in once repairs are completed, she said no one is returning her calls.

Calls to the Park Sierra Apartment management regarding apartment repairs and the prospect of the Navarro family returning were referred to the complex’s corporate office.

Multiple messages were left with a woman with whom Carmen Navarro was speaking to regarding the situation, but they were not returned Tuesday.

The Signal received no return phone calls from GHP Management, which manages the Park Sierra apartment complex. The management company was formed in 2009 to manage the property operations of all residential communities built by GH Palmer Associates.

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