The fire started around 3 a.m. in a house on Winding Oak Drive near Birch Tree Street.
SAN ANTONIO – Five people, including three children, died after a tragic fire at a house early Saturday morning on the northeast side of San Antonio.
The fire started around 3 a.m. in a house on Winding Oak Drive, off Birch Tree Street.
When the SAPD arrived on the scene, they kicked the door down and heard people screaming inside the house. Eventually firefighters arrived and embarked on a rescue operation.
SAFD Fire Chief Charles Hood said two adults and three children died in the blaze. One man remains in hospital. In Monday’s remarks, Chief Hood said it was the deadliest fire in his tenure as department head since 2012.
Among the deceased are three children, aged between 6, 11 and 12 years. The coroner identified the 11-year-old as Lillie Valadez, the 6-year-old as Isabella Morales, and an adult as 50-year-old Felicia Ann Valadez. The other adult killed is a 27-year-old woman.
Hood said the fire started in the garage on Monday and was contained in the garage. However, heavy smoke filled the entire house.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Hood said there was a working smoke detector upstairs, but there must have been more in the house. He stressed the need for smoke detectors in every bedroom and hallway as well as an escape plan.
He said a multigenerational family lived at the house. Hood said Grandpa survived but he is in critical condition.
“Everyone is devastated,” said Lisa Fry, who lives nearby.
Fry said it was only when she woke up Saturday morning that she realized her neighbor’s house had caught fire.
“I was hoping everyone would get out because it didn’t look like the whole house burned down,” Fry said.
When Fry learned of the deaths, he said he was heartbroken. Marla Hargrade also lives along Winding Oak Dr. and she said she’s still in shock.
“I can’t imagine what was going through Fernando’s mind that he survived,” said Hargrade. “Let’s hope it continues to survive.”
On Saturday, firefighters knocked on every door in the neighborhood to offer free smoke detectors. Both Fry and Hargrade said this tragedy served as a wake-up call.
“I tracked down the firefighters to come and see them, make sure everything is working properly, so I’m thankful they were out and checking on all the neighbors,” Hargrade said.
11-year-old Lillie Valadez and the 12-year-old were scheduled to attend Harris Middle School in the fall. The Northeast Independent School District released this statement:
“This is an absolute and unimaginable tragedy. Our hearts go out to the family at this extremely difficult time. NEISD counselors will provide support to our students and staff.”
Hood has told the media that his crew members will be greatly affected by this incident.
“Members who were here tonight, we will make sure they get a critical incident stress debrief,” he said. “It’s very inspiring to see some of the images and experience what they’ve been through, bringing out a family of six.”
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