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Fatal fire may have started in garage of Austwell home

By Jessica Priest
June 3, 2013 at 1:03 a.m.
Updated June 4, 2013 at 1:04 a.m.


To help

A bank account has been established at the Capital One Bank in Port Lavaca and Victoria for monetary donations for the needs of Ismael Martinez and Karen Williams.

For more information on how to donate home goods, call Courtney Lenhart at 361-652-5388 or email czimm2010@live.com.

State investigators are still piecing together what caused a fatal fire in Austwell on Saturday.

Lupe Martinez, 84, was found dead on a covered screened-in patio at a home in the 400 block of Main Street, said Donnie Denton, president of the Austwell Volunteer Fire Department.

"I'm not sure what it was that kept him from getting out. There are various scenarios of him being disoriented due to smoke. It could very well be that he was overcome with smoke," Denton said.

Courtney Lenhart, a family friend, agreed. She thought Lupe Martinez may have gone further into the house to round up pets.

"He really loved those two little dogs, and I'm sure they were running around crazy, not knowing what to do either, or maybe he thought Karen (his daughter-in-law) and them were there because he has a door in his bedroom that leads straight outside," she said

Martinez lived in the home with his son, Ismael Martinez, the Austwell Volunteer Fire Department assistant fire chief; Ismael Martinez's wife, Karen Williams; and their two children Audrey, 8, and 7-month-old Mason.

Ismael Martinez told Lenhart he did not wish to talk about his father's passing.

"His dad was a modest man and had always told Ismael that he did not want his funeral to be a big ordeal," she said. "He lived a really good life."

Martinez' body was sent to the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office. Lenhart said the examiner was having trouble identifying him, so funeral arrangements could not be finalized Monday.

Services and rosary will likely be held at Austwell's Saint Anthony's Catholic Church though.

She said the house had about six smoke detectors that would also alert the family about carbon monoxide levels.

"And they knew they worked. Just the other day, they lit a candle and blew it out, and just from blowing out that candle set off the alarm. They were sensitive," Lenhart said.

She said a majority of the appliances in the house were gas powered, and outlets checked by investigators did not appear to be the source of the blaze, which took 18 area firefighters five hours to extinguish.

They think the fire originated in the garage.

Lenhart is temporarily lodging the family, and donations have already come pouring in, both from the community and the Corpus Christi Red Cross. They now face funeral expenses and must buy home goods such as pillows and blankets because they want to rebuild on that same lot.

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