'I want to know what happened to my babies'

Posted Friday, Jan. 11, 2013  Print Reprints

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HALTOM CITY -- A fire that killed three children and their grandmother in Haltom City on Thursday evening started in the living room near a Christmas tree, fire officials said.

Those killed in the fire were identified as Maritza Garces, 52; Gene Perrera, 5; Jayleen Rayos, 3; and Jaime Moran Jr., 2 months, fire officials said.

Jayleen and Gene’s mother, Yessenia Garces, 23, spoke tearfully to reporters outside the burned home Friday. Pressing her hands against the sides of her head, she said she was desperate to get more information on why the fire started.

"I don’t know anything that is going on right now,” she said. “I want to know as much as anyone wants to know. I want to know what happened to my babies. I want to know what happened to my mom.”

She said she lived at the house with her mother and her two children but was at work when the fire started. Jamie Jr. was her sister’s son, she said.

Family members said Garces’ employer was starting an account where people could make donations to help with funeral arrangements.

“I have to do four funerals,” Garces said, crying. “I just didn’t expect to come home to this.”

Relatives then helped Garces walk back to a car.

Haltom City Emergency Management Coordinator Perry Bynum said Friday morning that an arson task force was still investigating the cause of the fire and where it started in the home.

Bynum called the fire among the worst he could recall during his 24 year career.

"It's the type of fire that is very difficult," he said. "Not just for the firefighters but for the community, too."

Outside the home Friday morning, neighbors had left stuffed bears and dogs circling a tree in the front yard. An inflatable snowman was crumpled on the lawn. Inside a broken upstairs window, an infant carrier and car seat could be seen.

The fire was reported at 5:02 p.m. Thursday in a call from the 4900 block of Colonial Park Drive, said Haltom City Fire Chief Steve Ross.

When ambulances arrived, firefighters had pulled two victims into the front yard and two more were pulled out not long afterward, Zavadsky said.

The children were transported to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth and the woman was taken to North Hills Hospital in North Richland Hills, where they were pronounced dead.

On Thursday, neighbors remembered the little boy, who was frequently outside looking for other kids to play with him.

Phillip Heard, who lives with his family across the street, said that when he was out working in his garage, the boy would walk up and ask him what he was doing.

Heard said he was outside about 5 p.m. Thursday when he saw smoke billowing from a downstairs window of the house. No cars were parked out front, and there was no other indication of whether anyone was there.

He said he yelled, "Your house is on fire! Hey! Is anyone in there?"

Getting no response, he dialed 911.

Eight companies responded, including units from Haltom City, Fort Worth, North Richland Hills and Watauga, Ross said.

The first unit reported smoke coming from the second floor.

"The fire was put out quickly, and they did a thorough, rapid search," Ross said.

Delario Kizzee, the owner of the Haltom City house, said the grandmother had rented the house in 2008.

“She was a good woman,” Kizzee said.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684

Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

House fire kills three child, adult
4900 block of Colonial Park Drive, Haltom City TX
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