‘I Heard a Bunch of Screaming and Ran Out'

Two people are fighting for their lives at the UCSD Burn Center, covered with second and third degree burns after a chemical fire in City Heights.

When firefighters arrived to the apartment complex at the corner of 35th Street and University Avenue just after 8 p.m. Tuesday, the fire was out but it was obvious to fire crews what had been going on.

Marlene Gant, 10, and Eric Lopez, 19, had been on the apartment patio using denatured alcohol and paint thinner.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened, but an explosion caught the pair on fire. Marlene Gant's mother, Marlene Pineda, said Lopez might have been smoking.

Pineda recalled hearing an explosion and running outside. “I was inside of my room cleaning when I heard a bunch of screaming and ran out,” she said.

“We saw my brother-in-law on the stairs burning, big old flames. We were all helping him,” she said.

In the meantime, she said, “no one knew my daughter was at the other side burning until I saw her little feet up in the air.”

She immediately ran to help the little girl but had nothing to stop the flames.

“My daughter started getting pots and throwing water and hitting them around,” she said explaining how the hose couldn’t reach.

The fire department is conducting a criminal investigation. Pineda thinks the pair was playing around and that Lopez was irresponsible.

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