DENVER (CBS4) – Three people were hospitalized after a house fire in Southwest Denver Tuesday morning.
The victims were a mother, identified as Patricia Garcia, her teenage daughter, Diana, and her son, Juan, 7. The children’s stepfather, Julio Garcia, was able to escape the fire but Mendez and her children became trapped in the burning home.
Another of Mendez’s sons, Tommy Martinez, who wasn’t in the home, told CBS4 all three of his family members are in critical condition. He said they are conscious but have tubes in and aren’t able to talk. He said Juan has burns on about 20 percent of his body.
Firefighters said they arrived at about 4 a.m. to find a chaotic scene. Several neighbors were outside the home, located on the 400 block of South Eliot Street and they said a man had a hose and was trying to put out the fire.
“I heard the glass break and I ran out to the backyard to see what was going on and it was really foggy out and I thought it was fog until I heard the guy scream,” witness Daniel Trujillo said. “There was another gentleman there who understood what he was saying and he said that the kids were still in the house.”
“Initially what woke me up is that I heard yelling and then I heard glass breaking. I don’t know if he was breaking the windows or the fire was breaking the windows. By that time firefighters were arriving,” a witness said. “All of a sudden they’re trying to knock the front door down and they struggled quite a bit to get into the front door. Minutes later they were bringing out the bodies unconscious.”
Officials said the teen or the boy made the call to 911 while they were trapped, and they described the call as being very upsetting and dramatic. They said the person on the phone said the room was filling with smoke and then stopped talking, presumably passing out.
“We provided the best care that we could provide. Denver Health transported them almost immediately. Certainly our thoughts and prayers are with them but, very significant and serious injuries,” Denver fire spokesman Lt. Phil Champage said.
Fire officials said unattended candles at a religious alter are what caused the fire.
“Certainly a very, very unfortunate tragedy that could have well been prevented,” Champage said.
Champage said it was odd Julio Garcia didn’t tell firefighters he escaped out of the backdoor and that the door was open.
“It was odd. It’s tough for us to judge. He could have been in shock. He was standing there with the garden hose trying to put the fire out,” Champage said.
Champage said there were no smoke detectors in the home.
A fund has been set up for the family. Money can be donated to the South Eliot House Fire Fund at any Wells Fargo bank. Mention Colleen Alvarado if you have problems donating.