A GoFundMe account set up to pay for funeral expenses for a 41-year-old father and his two daughters who died in an apartment fire in Hemet was more than halfway to its goal of $20,000 Saturday morning.
The man rushed back into the burning unit, located at 150 N. Allesandro Street, near Latham Avenue, in an attempt to rescue his daughters at 1:10 a.m. Friday, but died inside the scorched apartment with the two girls, according to Lt. Jeff Davis of the Hemet Police Department.
The victims were identified by relatives as Juan Moreno, 12-year-old Maria and 4-year-old Janessa.
Neighbor Robert Richmond told reporters that a Christmas tree caught fire inside one of the units in the Olive Apartments and the woman and her husband, who live there with their children, were “trying to put it out,” screaming for help.
“Before they knew it, it went up in flames,” Richmond said.
When police and fire personnel reached the location, more than three-quarters of the occupants of the 25-unit two-story complex had already gotten out, Davis said.
The blaze was raging on the northeast corner of the structure, Davis said, and public safety officials were immediately directed to the location by the distressed woman.
She told authorities that her husband grabbed their infant and an 11-year-old girl, carrying them to safety, then darted back into the burning building for the rest of his children.
“It’s my understanding that … the 41-year-old male … went back inside to rescue other family members that were not able to get out, and he wasn’t seen alive after that, unfortunately,” Hemet police Lt. Nate Miller said.
Firefighters found the three victims dead inside the apartment, Davis said.
“He was a great guy, a great father and loved those kids,” a woman told reporters at the scene.
The family’s 8-year-old son, identified only as Isaac, was rescued, but he suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted to UCI Medical Center in Orange in grave condition, according to Miller.
Red Cross staff were assisting the complex’s 40 displaced residents.
An investigation into the exact cause of the fire was underway.
As of 2:45 a.m., the GoFundMe account had raised $10,813 of its $20,000 goal.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: