Owner of South Side daycare destroyed by fire: ‘We will overcome’

Owner of Guardian Angel vows to keep serving community

The owner of a long-time South Side daycare destroyed by a fire early Friday morning is vowing to keep doing what he can to help the community.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The owner of a longtime South Side daycare destroyed by fire early Friday morning is vowing to keep doing what he can to help the community.

“It has to go. It has to keep on going. I don’t know how, but we’re gonna make it,” Eli Guerra said while fighting back tears.

Guerra showed up a few hours after his Guardian Angel Child Development Center went up in flames around 5 a.m. Friday.

When he arrived on scene in the 1600 block of Pleasanton Road, the building that had been a community staple for decades was showing signs of heavy damage with smoke and flames still billowing from it.

San Antonio firefighters received a call about the fire and responded with more than 30 fire units. They used four different aerial ladder trucks to dump water from above the building.

Joe Arrington, a public information officer, said crews could see flames and smoke showing inside the back portion of the U-shaped building. The fire quickly spread, causing damage or destruction throughout it.

Peggy Jauregui also had noticed the fire as she arrived in the area, moments before fighters, on her way to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.

“You could see the flames from the back and coming forward and I was, like, ‘Oh!,” she said.

Because of all of the fire trucks and hoses, Jauregui was not able to drive out of the restaurant parking lot right away.

She sat in her car, watching them work and gradually seeing an important neighborhood business go up in smoke.

“This has been there for a long time, because I was raised on the South Side,” she said. “That’s sad to have the daycare go down.”

Guerra said he and his late-wife, a former Catholic nun, had built the business together starting in the 1980s.

Guardian Angel offered child care and other activities for children as well as chapel services.

Guerra said his wife’s main goal was to take care of the community, no matter what the financial cost was.

She died four years ago, and Guerra, at times, has struggled to keep the business going.

“We made it through COVID and I kept my staff,” Guerra said. “We were starting to pick up kids and we were starting to do better and then…,” he said, shrugging.

As the morning wore on, parents with children who attended the daycare began to arrive, watching in disbelief as it continued to burn.

Due to the observance of Good Friday, the daycare was scheduled to be closed. Now, it will remain that way indefinitely.

Arrington said investigators have not yet determined how the fire started.

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About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.