96-year-old SA native celebrates birthday a week after fire burns her house down

Celia Ochoa’s family, community helped her find joy and gratitude after tragedy

SAN ANTONIO – Last Tuesday night was a tough one for both Celia Ochoa and San Antonio fire crews.

A firefighter was injured trying to break down the flames at her house on Britton Avenue on the South Side.

“I was actually next door with a neighbor talking and we smelled smoke,” said Ochoa’s oldest daughter Celia Garcia.

She said she saw smoke pouring out of the back of her mother’s house, and ran to get her out.

“She was sitting down looking at TV, she was not even aware of what was going on. I realized it was coming from the laundry area. Later on, we were told it was a short in the dryer,” Garcia said.

The house was a true home that sheltered Ochoa and generations of her family for 67 years.

On Saturday, fire truck sirens rang out again, but for a very different reason. Crews joined a drive-by parade to celebrate Ochoa’s 96th birthday.

“I love it,” Ochoa said. “I like it very much. Everything was beautiful.”

Despite the recent tragedy, she dawned her flower crown and a gentle smile.

“I feel good. I feel okay because I’m here with my sons and my daughters and everybody,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa’s sister was Rosita Fernandez, a singer and entertainer, and well-known San Antonio staple.

The way her sister was known for singing, Ochoa was known for her love of family.

“Mom does not ever think of herself. She always thinks of everyone else,” said Ochoa’s daughter Martha Ochoa Johnson.

Johnson said that’s why the whole family is gathering funds and resources to rebuild and restore what’s left of the beloved home.

In fact, it’s Ochoa’s one and only birthday wish.

“I hope that they fix my house,” she said.

Even with that fresh on her mind, the selfless mom and grandmother spent her birthday with gratitude, taking in the love around her, that no fire could destroy.

More on KSAT:

Family believes space heater played role in deadly house fire

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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