Alton Family Displaced after House Fire
ALTON – An investigation into a fire that sent a mother and her child to the hospital is underway in Alton.
The blaze broke out just before 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday. CHANNEL 5 NEWS is told it started inside an old fireworks stand that was turned into a shed.
The fire jumped the fence and ignited the neighbor’s home.
A family of eight resided at the home. A pregnant woman and her child with special needs were rushed to Mission Regional Medical Center.
“The baby started crying so the mom woke up and that’s when she saw the smoke and they started evacuating,” Alton Fire Chief Javier Garcia said.
First responders said they suffered non-life threatening injuries.
The property owner where the shed is located said he believes someone is to blame.
Fernando Montelongo, the owner, said no one has lived at the home for months and another fire broke out inside the home less than two months ago.
“When we were on our way, we turned the corner and saw the firefighters. And oh I felt a pit form in my stomach. It was my son’s house that burned again,” he said.
Hidalgo County Fire Marshal investigators and the Alton fire chief are ruling it as an arson investigation.
Hidalgo County Fire Marshal Investigator John Franz said an accidental fire would follow the triangle effect.
“As we entered and we assessed the situation, we noticed that there were no smoke detectors in the home. We interviewed some of the family members, and some of the neighbors told us was that they had woken up to the sounds of the fire and then evacuated,” Franz said.
Three elements are needed for a fire to naturally occur – fuel, oxygen and heat. In this case, fuel was the wood and paint inside the shed. Oxygen was present in the air, but no heat source.
There was no electricity and the sun wasn’t out at that hour. And because of the incomplete triangle, investigators concluded the fire was intentionally set.
“The roof caved in in the room where the special needs child was, which was closest to where the fire was. They’re lucky that they got out with the injuries that they had. This could have been tragic. This could have been a lot worse,” Franz said.
The Alton fire chief said there is no ordinance in place requiring homes in the county to have smoke alarms but it’s highly recommended.
“I do recommend people, you know, if they don’t have smoke detectors, please know, install them. This is a good example. If that baby hadn’t woken up, maybe something else could have happened. But they didn’t have the smoke detectors. So I hope they learn from this and those smoke detectors are very important,” Garcia said.
He mentioned commercial structures, such as apartments, are required by law to have smoke alarms installed.
The family of eight is receiving aid from the American Red Cross. Their home is currently unlivable.
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