A fire last month that claimed the lives of two 5-year-old children and the man who tried to save them remains under investigation, a Merced Fire Department investigator said Wednesday.
“We are waiting for the results of electrical tests from the private insurance investigators,” Fire Battalion Chief Don Roe said. “We have not ruled out other potential causes like open flames from candles, either.”
Geraldine Figueroa-Perez and Jesus Perez-Manzo, both 5, and 31-year-old Ignacio Figueroa-Bautista died in a house fire Dec. 3 at the family’s home at 264 E. 10th St. in Merced. Firefighters said Figueroa-Bautista died trying to rescue the two children.
Figueroa-Bautista managed to save his wife, 28-year-old Maricela, and his infant daughter, Kaily, before he rushed back into the burning home to try to help the other two children, witnesses said. The baby was hospitalized before being released to her mother.
“Maricela went back to Mexico for the burials,” Roe said. “She went down before the holidays. Our investigators are trying to contact her to find out when she’s getting back.”
Douglas Gessell, an attorney appointed by the Mexican Consulate to work with the family, said Maricela Perez plans to return from Mexico around late January or early February.
Gessell said the family has not ruled out the possibility of seeking civil actions in the case.
“I think it’s pretty clear that the smoke detectors were not working and that’s obviously an issue,” Gessell said Wednesday. “But everything is still preliminary and we’re waiting to get the report back from the Fire Department.”
Investigators still need to conduct “a thorough interview” with Maricela Perez.
“She did a preliminary interview with police, but we still need to talk to her to find out what they saw, what they heard, smelled and did,” Roe said. “She was the last one in that apartment that can tell us what was happening. There are still things that we have to rule out.”
City fire investigators are working with investigators from a private insurance company.
“We didn’t find anything that would’ve led to arson and it appears accidental,” Roe said.