Members of the Pueblo Fire Department leave the scene of a fatal fire in which four family members died on Oct. 30.
Photo credit: AP Photo/The Pueblo Chieftain, John Jaques
Four people, including a mother and her two young children, died early Tuesday in a fire that investigators say appears to be accidental, the result of medical oxygen and cigarette smoking.
Pueblo fire Chief Chris Riley called the 2:09 a.m. fire at 1347 E. Second St. the most tragic fire fatality here in decades.
"Right now the fire appears to be accidental in nature. It also appears to have started from smoking. It appears accidental smoking and the oxygen bottle possibly accelerated the fire," Riley said.
The tragedy, Riley said, "Is the worst fire, in terms of fatalities, we've had in our department's modern history, in at least 25 to 30 years."
The fire claimed April Hon, 26, her children Michael Hon-Montoya, 2, 3month-old Frankie Marie Anaya and homeowner Harvey Montoya, 62.
Riley said firefighters were able to remove the victims from the threebedroom, single-story home but it was too late.
Montoya was found in the front and Hon and her children were found in the back of the house. "It appears they were trying to get out the rear door
and were overcome with smoke," Riley said.
Montoya, who was in a wheelchair, was on oxygen and was a heavy smoker, according to City Councilwoman Eva Montoya, who is not related to the victims but who knew the family.
An East Side resident, Eva Montoya's brother-inlaw used to live next door to the house and her relatives knew Hon and her children, she said.
"We just need people to offer prayers and condolences," Eva Montoya said at a noon press conference outside the home as a steady flow of cars passed by.
Riley said the house, which was full of smoke when firefighters arrived, had at least one smoke detector but it was not clear if it worked.
According to records from the Pueblo Fire Department, firefighters responded to at least six calls at the home this year concerning Montoya's health.
The fire does not appear to be linked to the rash of arson fires set this year on the East Side. "At this time, it does not seem to be any kind of correlation or nexus with the arson fires we've been having on the East Side," Riley said.
A bank account was established to help the victims' family. The Frank Anaya Donation Fund was set up at US Bank, where donations can be made at any local branch. The fund was established by The Pueblo Chieftain, where Frank Anaya is an employee in the mail room. Frank Anaya was the father of the 3-month-old child.
Friends and family placed candles, a teddy bear and a letter outside the home later in the day.
The letter read: "We love you so much and miss you so much more. All our dreams are gone now but not ever forgotten. You stay in my heart always."
With Tuesday's fire, six people have died this year in Pueblo in three separate fires.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service