A young girl died in an early morning house fire on the city's east side. Her grandmother and four other children were taken to UMC due to smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
It was about 4:15 a.m. when three men were standing outside a temp service on S. 15th Street and noticed smoke in the sky. They thought it was unusual that someone might be using a barbecue at that time of the night. Suddenly they heard children screaming on the next street over so they ran to see what the problem was. As they ran up Cholla Way they noticed flames coming out of the windows of a one-story, wood frame house at 1412 Cholla Way. Two of the men ran to the house, the third ran to Fire Station #4, which was just four doors down from the house. The man banged on the front door of the fire station and alerted firefighters of the fire. The other two men found three children and an infant standing on the sidewalk in front of the house. The children told the men that their younger sister and grandmother were still inside the burning home.
Seconds later a fire engine from Station #4 arrived on scene and firefighters entered the home. Firefighters found the grandmother lying on the floor at the back door of the kitchen. It appeared she was trying to escape the fire, but was unable to open the door. Firefighters had to use a saw to cut the door open. The grandmother was transported to UMC in critical condition, suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.
Firefighters at the same time were able to douse the blaze, which had consumed most of the interior of the small house. When they searched the house, the body of a 5-year-old girl was found in one of the bedrooms.
Children told investigators that they believe a blanket may have caught fire from a space heater. Fire investigators are reconstructing the incident to confirm the children's story. At this point, the fire is officially still undetermined and under investigation.
The children told investigators that three of them were sleeping in one room, ages 5,7 and 8. An 11-year-old was in another room along with a 4-month-old infant and a middle-aged grandmother. The girls said they woke up and found the room on fire. They ran to the 11-year-old's room and alerted her to the fire. The 11-year-old could not get to the 5-year-old girl, who was still in the burning room, so she alerted the grandmother and got the infant and went out the front door with the other two children. It was not clear why the grandmother did not go out the front door with the children.
When firefighters arrived they found the house nearly fully consumed with flames. The house was gutted by the fire. Damage was estimated at $120,000.
Coincidentally, it was last Tuesday morning that firefighters went door-to-door in the neighborhood passing out fire safety literature and provided a free smoke alarm to every home on the street. It is not clear if the smoke alarm had been mounted and activated during the incident.
The grandmother and five children were the only ones who lived in the house. This is the second fire related fatality in the city this year.