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'I heard him ask for help twice' | Man dies in house fire on west side, two others rescued

Investigators from the San Antonio Fire Department said the fire started in a front room of the home and then spread to the attic and the rest of the home.

SAN ANTONIO — The fire death toll in San Antonio this year grew to seven overnight with the loss of a 68-year-old man who was found dead in his burning home.

Neighbors in the 5100 block of Grovehill, on the west side, managed to save two women from the flames, but they said thick, choking smoke prevented them from saving the man.

Gena Garza said “I had my daughter call for help and I got my neighbor out and we crossed over and we went in and got out both of the ladies in there, which is a mother and daughter, but we knew that there was a third person in there so we were trying to get them out.”

Garza said hearing her friend call for help inside the burning home was heartbreaking.

“I heard him ask for help twice and my neighbor?  She heard him too. And that's the part that's getting me choked up because we heard him.  He was still alive,” Garza said.

Garza, who lives across the street, said she and her husband have known their neighbors for years.

“We know them very well.  My husband owns a landscaping business and he actually does their yard and a lot of their maintenance work so we know them very well,” Garza said.

Garza’s husband, Alejandro, also raced to help.

Alejandro said “I was about to go in and there was just too much smoke coming out  of that back door, so I had to come back out because there's no point of going in if I can't even see nothing at the entrance.”

Alejandro said when the smoke forced him outside he did the only thing he could do.

“The only thing I could possibly do was go get the water hose and start watering the front window and try to put water in there as much as I could,” Alejandro said.
Both said they were shaken by the loss.   Alejandro said “I just wish I would have made it here sooner.”

Investigators from the San Antonio Fire Department said the fire started in a front room of the home and then spread to the attic and the rest of the home.

The smoke was so thick it took several tries to find the victim. Firefighters located his body more than 30 minutes after their arrival. 

One fire official said while they were knocking down the flames, they were searching areas of the home where a person might have survived.  As they made their way into the more heavily involved areas, they realized the odds of finding someone alive were almost impossible.

Neighbors said they know the name of the man who died, but the Medical Examiner says they only have a tentative identity.

Fire officials said there were ten fire fatalities in all of 2021. With seven in just the first 69 days of this year, fire officials are urging everyone to do more to protect the most vulnerable from fire injuries and death.

They recommend visiting www.firesafesa.com for life saving information.

Most importantly, they said, people should check on neighbors, family members and friends to make sure they have both working smoke detectors and a safe pathway to exit their home, as several recent fires have been made more complicated by large amounts of personal property inside.

Firefighters say too much clutter is dangerous because it blocks exits and more fuel creates hotter burning fires.

Fire officials also said anyone who needs a smoke detector can get one by calling 211.  A fire crew will come to a home to install the device.

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