Months After Woman’s Home Burned Down, Dozens of Strangers Help Clean

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MERCEDES – A community unites to save a woman’s house – a house that had been destroyed by fire.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS first reported 79-year-old Ofelia Olivares not only lost the roof over her head last September, she also lost her partner a couple weeks after the fire.

We learned the city of Mercedes gave her a deadline to clean up the property. Olivares says she had until the middle of next month to clean up the burned remains of a three-bedroom house.

The homeowner says she bore that weight on her shoulders until this week.

Already, over $600 was donated to help her.

The letter said she had 30 days to remove the remains of her burned out home.

Mercedes Assistant City Manager and Planning Director Sergio Zavala said the junk posed a health and sanitation threat.

“We ultimately made the decision to go ahead and start that procedure by sending the letter notifying her of 30 days to get that done,” he says.

Olivares says she got an offer that wasn’t much help.

“‘We’re going to pick up the trash, but we’re going to put a lien.’ That’s not help. I am looking for help,” she says. “I need a bin. They didn’t offer me a bin so I could have a place for the trash.”

The family says in addition to the 30-day extension granted by the city, they also received help from some Sood Samaritans.

“I always ask God to help me because there is no other option. He sent me an angel. It’s never too late,” Olivares says.

A group of at least 50 showed up at Olivares’ property this week.

“I don’t have any words,” she told us.

Volunteers cleared the old and burnt debris to make way for the new, and showed everyone the true meaning of community.

Hidalgo County will also contribute with an extra trash bin for the cleanup.

Zavala says the city will cover the disposal fee, until the family can pay the money back.

They still do not know what caused the fire. The Hidalgo County Fire Marshal’s Office says the cause could not be determined.

Olivares is living with her daughter for now.


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