Cause of fatal Merced fire still under investigation

03/05/2014 6:20 PM

03/05/2014 10:48 PM

The cause of a fire late last year that claimed the lives of two 5-year-old children and the man who tried to save them remains under investigation, the Merced Fire Department confirmed Wednesday.

Geraldine Figueroa-Perez and Jesus Perez-Manzo, both 5, and 31-year-old Ignacio Figueroa-Bautista died in a house fire Dec. 3, 2013, 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 saved his wife, 28-year-old Maricela Perez, and his infant daughter, Kaily, before he rushed back into the burning home to rescue the other two children.

While investigators have not released the cause of the fire, they have said it appears accidental.

Battalion fire Chief Don Roe said the firefighters are working with private insurance investigators to determine the fire’s cause. Investigators are working on electrical tests in connection with the fire, authorities have said previously.

“We’ve interviewed the victim and we’re interviewing another witness (Wednesday),” Roe said.

Roe said they have no timetable available for completing the investigation.

Douglas Gessell, a Stockton attorney, has been assisting the family. The attorney said the family has yet to take legal action in connection with the fire, but said future litigation was “still a probability.”

“We’re still gathering information with an electrical engineer, and we’ll inspect the smoke detectors and the circuit breakers,” Gessell said.

Gessell said Perez and her daughter, Kaily, are recovering, but still have a long way to go emotionally and physically.

“Maricela still suffers from residual issues associated with the smoke inhalation; she’s not completely recovered,” Gessell said. “Obviously there’s still the huge psychological impacts she’s still dealing with as well.”

After the fire, the Perez family went to Mexico for all three funerals, but most family members have returned to Merced, Gessell said.

Gessell said he hopes the community will donate to a fund established for the family with the help of the Mexican Consulate’s Office.

While it remains unclear when the investigation may conclude, Roe said he hopes to wrap it up as soon as possible. “We’re hopeful that with the insurance investigators we’ll get it wrapped up.”

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