A blaze that killed a Hemet man and three of his children last month stemmed from an electrical malfunction that caused the family’s Christmas tree to erupt in flames, according to a final determination published Monday by Hemet public safety agencies.
Sgt. Gabriel Gomez said Cal Fire investigators, working with Hemet police detectives and fire personnel, isolated the “cause and origin” of the Dec. 27 blaze, confirming it was “an electrical fire originating at the Christmas tree.”
“This tragedy underscores how quickly a fire can spread,” Hemet fire Chief Scott Brown said. “Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan — smoke alarms provide that critical early warning so you can get out quickly and are an important part of a home fire escape plan.”
Juan Moreno, 41, and his daughters, 12-year-old Maris and 4-year-old Janessa, perished in the predawn conflagration in their second-floor apartment at 150 N. Alessandro St.
Isaac Moreno, 8, was taken to UCI Medical Center, where he lingered on life support for two days before succumbing to his injuries.
Moreno’s wife, newborn child an 11-year-old daughter were safely evacuated from the apartment.
Neighbors were awakened to the mother’s screams for help about 1 a.m., as her husband attempted to knock down the flames around the Christmas tree and rescue his children.
He was seen by witnesses running into the residence, where he disappeared in a wall of smoke. Firefighters discovered his lifeless body minutes later, along with the remains of the two girls.
Neighboring apartments were damaged in the blaze.
Gomez said that along with Cal Fire, the Riverside County Environmental Health and Emergency Management departments, American Red Cross and Salvation Army provided extensive assistance in the aftermath of the deadly fire.