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Air conditioning unit starts house fire

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 2, 2011 at 5:02 a.m.

Rosie Baladez wipes tears away from her eyes while she stands and watches firefighters tend to her home. An electrical fire started Sunday on East 2nd  Street caused by a malfunction with a window air unit.

An electrical malfunction caught a house on fire Sunday in the 600 block of East 2nd Street.

Shannon Martin, Victoria Fire Department battalion chief, said a window air conditioning unit in a rear bedroom was at fault for the blaze.

Rosie Baladez and her three children, who have rented the home for the past two years, were inside the home when it caught fire, she said.

"I don't know if it has insurance. I don't know anything," Baladez said, holding her face in her hands.

Three of Baladez's children, Juanita Alvarez, 10, Cruz Alvarez, 10, and Nicole Alvarez, 13, alerted her to smoke coming from the back of the house just before 5 p.m., Sunday.

"When we saw the fire, we ran out," Baladez, 40, said.

No one was injured in the fire.

The family dog, Bear, a 1-year-old white Labrador, remained chained to a front yard tree until firefighters released him from the lead.

"He's usually very friendly, so I know he was scared," Baladez's 12-year-old daughter, Heather Alvarez said, after arriving on scene after the home caught fire.

As the eldest sibling, Nicole said she made sure her younger sister and brother were out of the home before exiting the home herself.

"They were the first ones I got out," she said. "I'm just glad we're OK."

While Baladez's children stood on the sidewalk stroking Bear and watching their home burn, two Victoria Police Department officers approached the children with condolence gifts: three brand new stuffed animals - a pink bear, a green Beanie Babie and a white-and yellow-rooster.

"Thank you!" Cruz and Juanita shouted at the officers, while running to them for a hug.

"You're welcome, buddy," Victoria Police Officer Cody Breunig replied.

Breunig and Victoria Police Officer Rick Soto said they present the toys to children whenever there's a tragic event.

"It's a small thing the Victoria Police Department does for victims of house fires or other traumatic events," Breunig said.

Martin said fire officials received the emergency call at 4:43 p.m. and had logged the fire under control by 5:09 p.m.

The home experienced fire damage to the rear of the building, and heavy smoke and heat damage throughout.

Linda May, director of emergency services for the Red Cross Crossroads Chapter in Victoria, said the Red Cross is assisting the family.



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