A 5-year-old girl was killed and seven family members were injured after an electrical fire sparked near a Christmas tree in a mobile home in San Diego’s North County early Thursday.
Crews with the Escondido Fire Department (EFD) were dispatched to the home at the Green Crest Mobile Home Park at 541 West 15th St. just after 12:35 a.m. to find flames ripping through the residence and thick, black smoke coming from the doors.
Two children were trapped inside the mobile home.
Neighbor Cristina Zazueta told NBC 7 she could hear the mother of the children screaming hysterically as the blaze consumed the home.
"She just kept screaming, 'My brother and my daughter are in there,'" the neighbor recounted, fighting back tears.
[G] Girl Killed in Mobile Home Fire, 7 Others Injured
Zazueta described a chaotic scene, with the family scrambling to flee the home. She said it appeared the family had been sleeping at the time of the fire.
"People were coming out of the house -- out of the windows -- with bare feet, and in their pajamas, and smelling like burnt plastic," Zazueta said, crying.
"It was just awful," she added. "It was awful."
Zazueta tried to hold back members of the family from re-entering the burning home. She wishes she could’ve done even more to help.
“I just keep replaying it in my mind. What else could I have done?” she sobbed. “I just feel so bad for them.”
Two firefighters rushed into the mobile home through a back window; they were able to find a 10-year-old boy trapped inside. They pulled the boy out and began performing CPR on him. The child was airlifted to Palomar Hospital in serious condition, officials said.
The other child trapped in the home – the 5-year-old girl – could not be saved and perished in the fire.
EFD Chief Russ Knowles said four other children were staying at the home, along with three adults -- all of them family. The survivors were all taken to local hospitals with injuries ranging from mild smoke inhalation to acute status CPR, Knowles said.
The EFD said a total of 42 firefighters helped battle the deadly fire, assisted by crews from other agencies like San Marcos Fire, Vista Fire and Mercy Air.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but firefighters believe it was an electrical fire, possibly linked to an extension cord that failed, which led to lights on a Christmas tree. Knowles said it also may have stemmed from a candle.
"As Christmas trees dry out, they become very, very flammable," Knowles explained. "They literally go up in 60 seconds or less."
The fire chief also said there were no smoke detectors in the mobile home and no reports of any smoke alarms sounding at the time of the blaze.
Knowles said the home is a complete loss.
Investigators remained at the scene Thursday cleaning up and collecting evidence. A chaplain was also there, helping the family cope with the tragedy.
He said firefighters were deeply saddened by the tragedy.
"It's part of our job and we're always going to come and do our very best, but we suffer the consequences as well," he lamented.
Neighbor Miles Garbey told NBC 7 he went to school with the mother of the child who was killed in the fire. He said he feels for the family.
“It’s really sad; it hits home,” Garbey said.
The family was identified by several friends and neighbors as the Flores family. An online fundraiser has been established to help them as they deal with their loss.
Zazueta described the Flores family as kind and the little girl who died as also very sweet.
"The whole family -- just [a] sweet, sweet, kind family. Nice to be around; quiet. Never any issues with them; just a delight," she added.
Neighbors said those who lived in the mobile home included a grandmother and her daughter, Sandra Flores, plus Flores' husband and several children. Some of the kids slept in the living room, according to neighbors, which is why they were so close to the source of the fire.
Neighbors said the family has coped with tragedy before. Last year, the grandmother lost her 21-year-old son in a car accident.
Neighbors said the girl who died was in kindergarten at Felicita Elementary School in Escondido. Her mother also works at the school.
Knowles said the boy pulled from the burning building was later transferred to UCSD Medical Center by air ambulance. He remained there in critical condition Friday morning.