Teen was watching TV when neighbors alerted him to smoke

July 18, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

HEBER — Daniel Martinez Jr. sat in the haven of his mother's mini-van trying not to watch his home smolder.

He looked at his family, he looked at his hands, he looked at the back of the seat in front of him — he looked down at his naked feet, dusty and swollen.

His shoes were inside the charred home.

Daniel, 13, fled his burning home at 404 E. Abatti Road south of El Centro without putting on his shoes.

An hour after he fled, firefighters worked to douse a few stubborn embers and Daniel talked about what happened.

He was the only one in the house when it caught fire around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday.

He said he was watching TV when two neighbors ran to the door and told him there was smoke coming from his garage.

Daniel called 911 and quickly went outside.

Around 1:45 p.m. his mother, Berenice Martinez, and his siblings, older sister Berenice and younger brother Joel, arrived home from the supermarket to find Daniel safe but their house engulfed in flames.


By the time the family returned from the market Imperial County firefighters were working on the fire.

Eventually the engine that arrived first from the county Fire Department Heber sub-station was joined by an engine from the county station Imperial.

They were joined by firefighters from Calexico who helped finish extinguishing the blaze and provided the county firefighters with a much-needed break from the heat.

Berenice Martinez said "everything" was burned in the fire, "photos, clothes …everything."

Daniel Jr. lost his Sony Playstation while his father, Daniel, lost his Ford truck.

The truck was parked near the garage, where firefighters said the blaze might have started.

Daniel Martinez, a tractor driver for hay farmer Tony Abatti, was at work when the fire started.

As firefighters battled the fire, Daniel Martinez stood near his employer assessing the damage.

Abatti said the house once belonged to him and he had lived there for a number of years during his first marriage.

For the past three years Martinez and his family had rented the house from Tony's cousin, Mike Abatti of El Centro.

Berenice Martinez said the family would stay with her sister until they find a new home.

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

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