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Christmas tree ignites

mom, three kids critically injured

January 02, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

SEELEY — A fire here that started when the lights on a dry Christmas tree were plugged in Tuesday left a mother and her three children critically injured.

The fire erupted about 3:30 p.m. in a small two-bedroom house at 1918 Mount Signal Ave.

Imperial County Fire Department Capt. Joe Seaman said the blaze, which he called a flash fire, started when someone in the family plugged in the Christmas tree lights.

Seaman said there was a "pop" and the tree quickly went up in flames. The fire spread through the living room.

Rebecca Juarez, 40, tried to get her three children out the back door but she could not get the door open. Seaman said he was not sure why Suarez could not open that door.

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Juarez then had to get her children out through the front door. To do that she had to pass through flames since the Christmas tree was next to the door.

Seaman said Juarez managed to get her children — boys ages 9, 5 and 1 — out of the house. They were taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center by Gold Cross Ambulance.

Seaman said all four were critical but stable.

All were flown to the University of California San Diego Burn Center, according to Sylvia Preciado, director of the American Red Cross.

Preciado said all four suffered first- and second-degree burns over 20 to 40 percent of their bodies.

Firefighters from the county and Naval Air Facility El Centro responded to the blaze and were able to control it within five minutes.

The blaze caused about $50,000 in damage to the structure and contents of the house. Juarez was renting the house.

Preciado said Juarez has a fourth child who was not home at the time of the blaze. That child is being cared for by family.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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