Pregnant single mom, her 3 sons escape apartment fire


June 12, 2010 at 1:12 a.m.

Lillian Terrell and her three boys - their belongings gone, their Victoria apartment in shambles - stood in a motel still in shock hours after an early Saturday morning fire woke them.

The family escaped the fire in Terrell's first-floor unit at Treemont Apartments on Sam Houston Drive. Victoria Fire Department officials believe the fire was caused by Terrell's 7-year-old playing with a lighter and paper.

Terrell's smoke detector blared as she woke up, choking on smoke.

The pregnant single mom looked up and saw an amber glow. Her kitchen and living room were in flames.

She grabbed her three boys, who slept in the bedroom with her, and shoved them through the window. They were cloaked only in their underwear. Then, Terrell climbed out to safety, she said.

"Really, I was just thinking to save my children, to get them out of there because smoke was all over my bedroom," she said.

The Victoria Fire Department responded to the call at 4:36 a.m.

All eight apartments in the building were evacuated.

Terrell and her children were transported to a Victoria hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. They were later released.

Terrell said the doctors told her she and her unborn child were fine.

Dori Garcia, who was evacuated from the fire, was drinking her morning coffee when she stepped outside to find smoke seeping out of the adjacent apartment, the one above Terrell's.

The tenant in that apartment was evacuated for the day, Garcia said. Cleanup workers deodorized the apartment with an ozone machine Saturday evening.

Victoria Fire Chief Vance Riley said the fire was confined to Terrell's apartment.

Garcia said Terrell's entire apartment looked charred. A piece of cardboard covered a side of the apartment. Above it, smoke stains ran up the wall to the window of the second-floor window.

"It was pretty bad," Garcia said. "It had probably been going on for a while before they realized it."

Garcia saw workers removing Terrell's blackened furniture Saturday.

"I mean she lost everything in this," she said. "I'm surprised everyone got out there OK like that. It was terrible, really terrible."

In the meantime, Terrell is unemployed, without her clothes, furniture or bedding, she said.

She received a voucher from the American Red Cross to buy clothes and food for her family. She will stay in the motel, compliments of the Red Cross, for three nights.

After that, she is uncertain of what will happen.

"I'm just going to have to take it day-by-day because I don't know what is going to happen," she said. "It's hard to live off people that already have families."



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