What to Know
- The deadly house fire happened at around 12:25 a.m. on May 6 at a home on a cul-de-sac on Coralwood Court in Chula Vista.
- Four people were inside the house: a woman, man, and the man's two children.
- The kids, believed to be around 4 and 5 years old, died in the fire; the adults survived.
An entire community is coming to terms with tragedy after two children were killed in an overnight house fire in Chula Vista.
“They were great little boys. [Their dad] played with them a lot. My boys played with them. They always laughed, and I can’t imagine how he will deal with this. I don’t – that was his whole world. It was," said Debra Combs, a former roommate of the kids' father.
The fire broke out shortly after midnight Thursday on Coralwood Court. The father of the children and a woman who is unrelated made it out of the house, but the two kids were unable to escape, according to Chula Vista Fire Department Capt. Linda D’Orsi. D'Orsi said the father suffered severe burn injuries when he went back into the home to try and save his kids.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
Combs, whose 6-year-old twin boys used to play with the children, had nothing but great things to say about the family.
"I wouldn’t mind being his kid. He would take them places, he would make sure they were OK," she said. "He would dress them up so cute. Most men don’t care but he had them dressing so cute always.”
The kids have not been officially identified, but neighbors and people close to the family told NBC 7 they were around 4 and 5 years old. The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District confirmed one of the children was a kindergarten student at Avondale Elementary School in Spring Valley. Hours later, district superintendent David Feliciano confirmed the father is an employee at Avondale Elementary.
"I can confirm that he is a beloved school employee, but I am not able to provide any additional identifying information. We are reeling from this loss and are focused on supporting our students and the family through this difficult time," superintendent David Feliciano said.
Counselors will be available at the school for the rest of the week, according to the district.
Bouquets of flowers, balloons, candles, cards and stuffed animals were placed at the end of the charred home's driveway. Neighbors watched fire crews and investigators around the home well into the afternoon as families, some with young children tagging along, stopped by to pay their respects and add items to the memorial.
"I just hope that it brings them a slight bit of joy to know that their community is here to support them," neighbor Yasmin Hernandez said. Hernandez came by the home with her kids and added to the shrine. "We just wanted to come and pay our respects to the family. I can't imagine what the mom and dad are going through."
Next-door neighbor Rose Chao knew the kids as sweet and loving.
“They were very happy. They were always out playing and riding trikes. They were sweet little kids," Chao said.
Chao said she woke up shortly after the fire sparked and saw the CVFD's response unfold.
"It was very traumatic thing to see, I know they’re all going to be very bereaved for quite some time," she said.
"When they told me the two little kids died I just sat for a minute," neighbor Eliza Schultz said. "I couldn't imagine that happening. I have a little brother."
The father was taken to UC San Diego Burn Center for treatment, according to the CVFD. Footage from the scene of the fire showed him, alert at the time, being rolled away in a stretcher. No updates on his condition have been released.
Investigators are still trying to figure out how, and where in the home, the fire started, according to CVFD Battalion Chief Ray Smith. They are also looking into whether the home was equipped with smoke detectors.
The Chula Vista Police Department is not involved in the investigation.
Witnesses say it appeared as though the fire started in a downstairs play room, and some believed that's where the kids were when the fire started.