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3 dead, 2 injured in Hesperia house fire

June 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Three family members are dead and two others injured after a fire broke out at their home in Hesperia.San Bernardino County firefighters responded to the home in the 16200 block of Cajon Street around 1 a.m. Monday. They arrived within two minutes of the 911 call made by neighbors, but the house was fully engulfed with flames.

Crews found the mother outside the residence breaking windows with her fists, trying to get her family out.

"The smoke was just thick and black, and it was, you could feel the heat from the fire," said Deputy Scott Lafond from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Fire crews rushed into the house and pulled out a 10-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy. They weren't able to get to the 34-year-old father and his nine-year-old son. Gabriel Pineda and his son Gabriel Jr. succumbed to smoke inhalation, and were both pronounced dead at the scene.

The family's youngest child, Christian, was barely breathing when firefighters rescued him from the blaze. He was transported to Desert Valley Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries.

The only survivors were the mother, 33-year-old Guadalupe, and the couple's 10-year-old daughter Stephanie. The young girl was transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center's burn unit, where she's listed in critical condition. She suffered smoke inhalation and burns to 90 percent of her body.

The mom suffered smoke inhalation and cuts to her arms when she broke a window, but is expected to be OK.

"We're all in shock. We just can't believe it happened," said Lucy Zambrano-Pineda, the victim's sister-in-law.

Family members who live next door were awoken by the mother's screams. They say she escaped just in time.

"Well, she's diabetic and she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and she heard an explosion," said Zambrano-Pineda. "She tried to wake up her husband, but her husband's a heavy sleeper. He didn't wake up. And when she saw the ball of fire coming at her, she just broke the window and got out."

It took firefighters 30 minutes to knock out the flames.

"We attempted rescue on all three people, we were able to evacuate all three from the building and took them over for treatment from the waiting ambulances," said Capt. Josh Sprague from the San Bernardino County Fire Department. "At that point we began fire-attack on the rest of the building and continued to search for any additional occupants."

Fire investigators say the blaze started at the rear of the house near the patio, but they're still not sure how it started.

In the meantime, relatives are trying to cope with the deaths.

"God has them up there and that's the good thing," said one relative.

Authorities say the fire completely gutted half of the house, and it's a total loss. They say the home was not equipped with working smoke detectors, which could have given the family more warning.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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