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Man describes grandson running on fire through trailer

By ALLISON MILES
Jan. 2, 2014 at 10:04 a.m.
Updated Jan. 2, 2014 at 7:03 p.m.


A knock at Cecil Brown's door Thursday morning brought word that his grandson's home was burning.

What he found at the scene, however, turned out to be much worse.

"He was on fire. Big time," Brown said, describing his grandson, Joseph Pena, running through the mobile home in an attempt to extinguish flames. "The skin was just hanging off of his legs. Oh, his hair was just singed off."

The Victoria Fire Department responded to a call just before 8 a.m. in the 2700 block of Leary Lane, said Fire Marshal Tom Legler. Although the fire was out by the time crews reached the home, the injured man had suffered burns to about 30 percent of his body, including the top of his head and lower legs.

"We're still piecing together what happened," Legler said about the man who was transported to DeTar Hospital Navarro and, later, the San Antonio Military Medical Center, for treatment.

Brown said his grandson suffered third-degree burns and was sedated to help ease the pain.

"They put a blanket over him. He was just shaking," he said of Pena, 20, who he said lives inside the mobile home with his mother. "It was bad."

Pena's girlfriend, who was visiting the home, alerted the grandparents to the emergency, said Brown, who lives two doors down.

Traces of the blaze -- the side of a couch that was burned off, scorch marks on the carpet and wet spots where people worked to put out the fire -- were visible inside the light gray mobile home.

Ethel Brown, Pena's grandmother, said smudges and burns illustrate her grandson's path through the house.

"He was trying to put it out. He was running around," she said, pointing to singed portions of the floor. "He ran down the hall. The wheels are melted on the vacuum where he was standing."

Although the grandparents have theories about what exactly happened, the fire remains under investigation.

Michelle Cooper, who manages Holiday Acres, the mobile home park where the fire occurred, said the incident was a difficult way to begin the new year. Still, she said, the results could have been much worse.

"We're blessed that he's still here with us," Cooper said about Pena.

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