SAN ANTONIO – Two additional children were pronounced dead following a house fire on Saturday on the North Side, bringing the death toll to five in what the fire chief says is the deadliest house fire in more than a decade.
In an update on Monday, Chief Charles Hood said the fire that started in the 11600 block of Winding Oak Drive “claimed the lives of, basically, a generation.”
Six people were inside the home when the fire broke out in the garage after 3 a.m.
One resident was pronounced dead at the scene and the others were taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Four of the residents taken to the hospital died, Hood said.
The victims include a 29-year-old woman; a 50-year-old woman; a 6-year-old girl; an 11-year-old girl; and a 12-year-old boy, Hood said.
The 50-year-old woman was identified as Felicia Valadez and the 11-year-old girl was identified as Lillie Valadez by the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office.
One man, a grandfather, remains hospitalized in critical condition.
“Challenging, sad event for San Antonio Fire Department,” Hood said. “For the city, this is the deadliest fire for residents in San Antonio, in my tenure for sure, since we had a boarding home fire in 2012 that claimed the lives of four.”
SAFD initially said there were no smoke detectors in the home, but Hood on Monday said there was one in operation on the second floor.
Firefighters arrived to find smoke and flames in the garage and heavy smoke throughout the house. Police officers kicked in the door before firefighters arrived because they heard people inside.
Hood did not elaborate on the victims’ causes of death, but he did say they were treated for smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but no foul play is suspected, SAFD arson bureau Chief Douglas Berry added.
Hood added that behavioral health teams were sent to visit every fire station due to the “sad” response.
“When you have kids, it affects you so much in so many ways,” he said. “This number was significant ... You don’t expect to see that number of victims that you’re pulling out.”
‘We are begging you’
Hood emphasized the importance of smoke detectors and escape plans.
Homes should have more than one alarm, and they should be located in bedrooms and hallways, and throughout all levels, he said.
Hood asked residents to check their smoke detectors and confirm they are in operation.
If a resident doesn’t have a smoke alarm and can’t afford one, they can call 211 and select option 1. Smoke alarms can also be purchased at hardware stores.
“We are begging you to go out and get these smoke detectors; make sure that you’re checking on your neighbors,” he added.
Since Oct. 1, SAFD has conducted 620 home safety surveys and installed more than 850 smoke alarms.
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