Boy dies of injuries from Hemet apartment fire that killed his father, sisters

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HEMET (CNS) – An 8-year-old boy died Saturday from injuries he suffered in a Hemet apartment fire that also killed three other members of his family, a relative said.

The boy, identified as Isaac Moreno, was rescued from the flames, but suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted to UCI Medical Center in Orange in grave condition, according to Hemet Police Lt. Nate Miller.

“It saddens our family to say that Isaac who was fighting for his life has now passed,” a family member posted on a GoFundMe page set up to help the family cover funeral costs.

The Hemet Police Department could not be immediately reached to confirm this.

The fire was reported at 1:07 a.m. Friday at an apartment building at 150 N. Alessandro Street, near Latham Avenue.

Isaac’s father, identified as Juan, initially escaped the blaze with his wife Christina, 11-year-old daughter Jaelyn and infant Cecily. However, he died after rushing back into the burning unit in an attempt to rescue two of his daughters who were still trapped in the fire and also died, according to Lt. Jeff Davis of the Hemet Police Department.

The girls were identified by relatives as 12-year-old Maria and 4-year-old Janessa.

Fire investigators said preliminary evidence indicates that the fire was sparked by an electrical malfunction related to a Christmas tree.

Investigators said witness statements were key in helping them= determine the cause of the fire.

Neighbor Robert Richmond told reporters that a Christmas tree caught fire inside the Moreno’s unit and that Juan and his wife were “trying to put it out,” screaming for help.

“Before they knew it, it went up in flames,” Richmond said.

Investigators scouring through the remains of the Moreno’s scorched unit for clues were unable to find signs that there were smoke alarms in the home, according to Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown.

“This tragedy underscores how quickly a fire can spread. Smoke alarms
are a key part of a home fire escape plan,” Brown said.

When police and fire personnel reached the location, more than three-quarters of the occupants of the 25-unit, two-story complex had already gotten out, Davis said.

The blaze was raging on the northeast corner of the structure, Davis said, and public safety officials were immediately directed to the location by the distressed woman. She told authorities that her husband grabbed their infant and 11-year-old daughter, carrying them to safety, then darted back into the burning building for the rest of his children.

“It’s my understanding that … the 41-year-old male … went back inside to rescue other family members that were not able to get out, and he wasn’t seen alive after that, unfortunately,” Miller said.

Firefighters found the three victims dead inside the apartment, Davis said.

“He was a great guy, a great father and loved those kids,” a woman told reporters at the scene.

As of 5 p.m., the GoFundMe account had raised $23,893, surpassing its $20,000 goal.

A vigil and fundraiser for the Moreno family was scheduled for New Years Eve. The event will take place between 8 a.m. and noon at the My City Youth Center, 145 N. Tahquitz Ave.

“This tragedy has reached every corner of this valley and it has been uplifting to see all of the passionate hearts that want to help,” the Facebook page for the event said.

Both the Murrieta and Hemet locations of So Cal Tacos and Beer are donating 25% of proceeds Saturday and Sunday to the Moreno family, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Customers must mention the Moreno family in order for the donation to be applied to their bill.

Red Cross staff were assisting the complex’s 40 displaced residents.