A woman and one of her twin daughters were killed early Friday when a fire swept through a friend’s home in north Fort Worth where they had been staying.
“I woke up by my dad’s screams,” said 19-year-old Amalia Ramirez, whose neighboring home also caught fire and was destroyed.
“He was screaming, saying to wake up, that the house was on fire. I went to the living room, and I saw the house next door was on fire. I went back to my room, I grabbed my little sister, and we all made sure everyone was out of the house,” Ramirez said.
Standing outside in the freezing cold, wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, Ramirez watched as her neighbor tried desperately to re-enter his own burning home.
“He kept trying to go inside the house, I guess to try to save the little girl and the lady, but it was too late already,” Ramirez said. “His hands were already burned. The flames were already [everywhere]. It was too late.”
Relatives later identified the deceased as 36-year-old Elvia Arriola and her daughter, 6-year-old Gabriela Segoviano.
Gabriela’s twin, Abigail, escaped the fire along with the home’s two residents.
Ramirez said her neighbor’s wife clutched Abigail outside the burning home, screaming and trying to shield the girl from what was happening.
“She was just covering her eyes, just trying not to [let her] see what was going on,” Ramirez said.
‘I still don’t believe it’
Tim Hardeman, a Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman, said investigators are still determining what caused the blaze.
Fire units were dispatched to the home in the 2600 block of Market Avenue about 1:50 a.m.
They found a small house ablaze, with flames extending to the house next door.
“When our firefighters got on scene, their first efforts were to put out the second house because there was so much fire in the first house that it did not appear that anyone inside would still be alive,” Hardeman said.
A resident of the home told firefighters that he cut his hand trying to save the woman and child. His wife reportedly suffered minor burns, Hardeman said. Both were taken to a Fort Worth hospital along with Abigail, who was later released to relatives.
The bodies of Arriola and Gabriela were found together, inside a doorway of a room near the front of the house.
“I still don’t believe it,” said Rebecca Arriola, Elvia Arriola’s cousin.
Rebecca Arriola said she believes her cousin was trying to rescue Gabriela when the mother and daughter died in the blaze.
“She was a wonderful mother,” Rebecca Arriola said. “She was so good with her kids. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for them. … I still don’t believe it.”
Father was out of town
Elvia Arriola and her husband had three older boys, ranging from 13 to 20, and both were excited, and a little nervous, when they were blessed with twin girls, her cousin said.
The children’s father is an electrician and was out of town for work when his wife and daughter were killed.
“They loved those kids and they loved each other,” Rebecca Arriola said.
She said she doesn’t know why her cousin, who lives in far north Fort Worth, was spending the night with her daughters at her friends’ house.
“I don’t understand why she was over there,” she said.
Rebecca Arriola said the twins, known as Gabby and Abby, were not identical.
Gabby had light brown curls while Abby has straight dark brown hair.
“Gabby was more like a girlie-girl,” Arriola said. “Abby was more like a little tomboy, more about playing with the boys.”
‘We’re going to be here to help her’
On Friday afternoon, Abby was playing with other children at a relative’s home, not yet aware of the loss she had suffered.
“I don’t know how she’s going to react later on when she doesn’t see them, when she finds out they’re gone completely,” Arriola said. “We’re going to be here to help her.”
Ramirez said she and her family are staying with an aunt while they try to get back on their feet.
Her father’s Chevrolet pickup was destroyed in the fire. Two other cars, one belonging to Elvia Arriola and the other to Ramirez’s neighbor, were severely damaged.
Losing her home and everything in it is devastating, Ramirez said, but she is heartbroken over the loss of life next door.
“Especially the little girl,” she said.