Fire tears through South Side home, displacing 3-generation family of KSAT intern

Sarah Cervera’s family picking up pieces after fire on Dec. 30

SAN ANTONIO – Three generations of a South Side family were displaced by a fire at their home, and are now trying to pick up the pieces.

The fire broke out on Dec. 30 at a home in the 2900 block of Desague Street and involved a member of the KSAT family, intern and Texas A&M-San Antonio journalism student Sarah Cervera.

Cervera lives at the home with her mother, two younger sisters and an 87-year-old aunt.

“The last couple of days have been extremely overwhelming. This belongs to my elderly aunt and we’ve lived here all our lives,” said Cervera. “It’s just us four girls and we’ve had this property pretty much for over 80 years. It was passed down to her from my grandpa.”

The fire started in a detached shed and spread quickly to a storage room and the back of the main house. Cervera’s room was destroyed, but the front part of the house was salvaged. The San Antonio Fire Department estimated more than $44,000 in property damages.

Cervera said a couple who was near Mission Espada noticed smoke coming from the back of the home and rushed to notify the family.

“Immediately I felt the flames and saw the shed on fire. I grabbed my computer in my bag and my dog and the other arm. I ran out and helped my aunt because she can’t walk very well,” said Cervera. “I broke down in the front yard and I just I sat on the ground and the firefighter told me, ‘you got to move.’”

“I ran out when the house was engulfed. I ran immediately to get my daughters and told my 8 year old, ‘just go, get out.’ If it wasn’t for that gracious couple, we wouldn’t have made it out alive,” said Sarah Vidal, Cervera’s mother.

Making the recovery and cleanup process even more difficult is that Cervera said her family did not have homeowners insurance.

“We have to try to find a way to do it, with the help of other organizations and if not ultimately on our own, which it’s going to be really difficult,” said Cervera.

The Greater San Antonio Chapter of The American Red Cross helped more than 1,100 individuals last year whose homes were either damaged or destroyed by a house fire.

The American Red Cross said not having homeowners insurance is not part of the criteria to get help, but it’s something many families face after a fire.

“I’m hoping and praying there are organizations out there that would help. I have tried and my daughter has tried helping out, looking for so many. We’ve just been hitting a lot of brick walls,” said Vidal.

Cervera said she will continue to reach out for help and work to rebuild the front part of the home.

She salvaged a few meaningful items from her bedroom, including her Virgen de Guadalupe medal that her boyfriend found in the rubble.

“I take it everywhere with me, everywhere, and I strongly believe that she saved us,” said Cervera. “I got it during my confirmation and also my promise ring and my high school ring. I was able to get that out of my room.”

Cervera said she was grateful to salvage those items, but the safety and health of her family and mother is what matters most.

“My family has always been my priority and I don’t want them to be homeless. My mom is my everything. I wouldn’t be able to have done internships and gone to college if it wasn’t for her always pushing me and telling me, ‘it’s OK’, saying ‘I know we’re in poverty, but one day mija you’re going to be the one to save us and get us out,’” said Cervera. “I want to make sure that I can complete that promise for her and that’s why when this fire happened, I felt so defeated. I felt like everything that I’ve worked for to this point and it’s just one setback after another. But getting my family back on their feet and my mom is the number one priority for me right now.”

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.