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Electrical wiring to blame for fire that left family homeless

July 18, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

HEBER — County fire inspectors determined Tuesday night that electrical wiring started the fire that destroyed a home near the corner of Highway 111 and Heber Road earlier in the day.

Capt. Lon Hettinger of the Imperial County Fire Department said the two-alarm fire started about 1:20 p.m. Tuesday because of problems in electrical wiring in the garage of a home at 404 E. Abatti Road.

The fire spread to the rest of the house "within a matter of minutes," he said.

Authorities were notified of the blaze when 13-year-old Daniel Martinez Jr. called 911.

Daniel was home alone watching TV when the fire started. His father, Daniel Martinez, was working and his mother, brother and sister were at the supermarket.

Hettinger said two unidentified passers-by saw smoke and told Daniel the house was on fire.

"Passing motorists told the young man that there was a fire and he called 911. We don't have the names of the persons that reported the fire to him," Hettinger said today.


On Tuesday, Daniel said the two motorists were "neighbors" who he has seen around, but he didn't know their names, either.

Nineteen firefighters and five fire engines fought the blaze.

The first engine to arrive was from the county department's Heber sub-station. That engine crew hooked up pumps and sucked water out of a nearby cement-lined ditch.

The engine crews that followed hooked up to that water supply as well.

Eventually, engines from Imperial, Calexico, El Centro and Holtville fire departments arrived and supplied needed manpower.

Used oxygen tanks beeped shrilly as the firefighters took turns manning the hoses near the smoke.

The fire and the extreme temperatures near the home took a toll on the men.

"Everybody was just pooped out from the heat," Hettinger said.

There were no injuries caused by the fire but, "Gold Cross took one of our guys to the El Centro Regional Medical Center for heat exhaustion," Hettinger said.

The firefighter was released, "after he got some fluids in him," Hettinger said.

For hours after the initial call, firefighters worked to dampen any stubborn embers and determine the cause of the blaze.

Hettinger said the Imperial engine, "hadn't returned to the station when I left for home at 5 p.m."

The fire destroyed the Martinez's rented home and most everything inside.

"What didn't burn is so damaged by smoke and water that it wouldn't be useful," Hettinger said.

It is estimated the Martinez's lost $35,000 worth of possessions. Fire officials said it would cost about $50,000 to rebuild the house.

The Martinezes had rented the house from Mike Abatti of El Centro for three years.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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