'I just took my daughters and ran,' survivor of fire says
Sept. 29, 2012 at 4:29 a.m.
Updated Oct. 1, 2012 at 5:01 a.m.
They all made it out alive.
That was all Fernando Martinez, of Port Lavaca, could think at 4 a.m. Saturday as he watched a fire rip through his home of 12 years.
"I was so scared - it was too fast. I just took my daughters and ran," Martinez said.
The family of four was asleep when Martinez said the roof was struck by lightning during a storm and a fire started to rage in the living room.
He carried his daughters, ages 7 and 10, as he and his wife ran out of the house in their pajamas.
"We all escaped, before we almost got fried up," said Karina Martinez, 10, as she sat crouched, surveying the charred remains of the only home she has ever known. "But my mom's little birdies got burned up."
Four pet parakeets and the family dog, Cookie, a chihuahua, died in the fire.
The two girls, however, did not know Cookie didn't make it out. They searched the neighborhood Saturday, calling his name.
"We don't know how to tell them," said Angelica Rico, the girls' aunt, as she watched Karina look around the house for Cookie. "They will be so upset and have been through so much."
Rico said they plan to have a funeral for Cookie in Bloomington.
Maria Martinez, their mother, said the girls are going to school on Monday, but Kassandra Martinez, 7, is worried because she doesn't have any school supplies.
"I don't have a backpack," Kassandra said. "Mine was pink and black. It was a Hello Kitty backpack. It was soft, but it was burned up."
The Port Lavaca Fire Department responded to the call in the 600 block of Half League Road at 3:57 a.m., said Fire Capt. Joe Reyes.
Reyes said they had the fire extinguished by about 4:30 a.m., but the house was a complete loss.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Fernando and Maria Martinez, who do not have insurance on their home, said lightning caused it.
Tears welled every time Maria Martinez looked at the smoke-blackened frame, where she said priceless pictures, family mementos and religious symbols had made it a home.
"At first, all she was thinking was getting the kids out," said Rico, Maria Martinez's sister. "But now all she is thinking about is finding a new home for her family."
The American Red Cross is providing emergency assistance, said Linda May, emergency services specialist. The family is temporarily staying with a grandmother, but they are still in need of food, clothes, school supplies and other donations.