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News | August 15, 2010

Rangel Family Loses Home to 5-Alarm Blaze

By Karen Russell Holmes – Publisher/Owner

With soot-covered hands, Felix Rangel and his daughter, Ariana, 12, picked through the rubble of their home Sunday evening in hopes of finding a few things to salvage out of the ashes as rain clouds piled up in the east.
On Friday around 9:30 a.m., their doublewide mobile home, located in the 200 block of Caribou Drive in Deer River off FM 306, was gutted by fire in a five-alarm blaze that started in Ariana’s bedroom. The Spring Branch Volunteer Fire Department answered the call and was able to contain the fire to just the structure.

Filled with family members, mother Marliese, daughters Araiana and Annaliese , and Felix Rangel III and two of their neighbor’s children, Sabrina and Michael Frazier, from a sleepover, the Rangels were saved by their son Felix, 10, and Michael, 8. Rangel had already gone to work and their oldest daughter, Lauren Lee, 14, was spending the night at a friend’s.

“We’re the heroes who saved our sisters,” Michael said. “I yelled, ‘There’s a fire, get out.’ I never knew smoke could do that much damage.”

The children had all thought Marliese had gone to work like her husband, but she was asleep in her bedroom.
“I woke up and thought ‘what was that smell?’ and it was so hot,” she said.

Opening her bedroom door, she knew instantly that the house would be a total loss. Escaping with her life, she was relieved to see that all the children were already in the yard, where she ran to safety.

According to neighbor Peggy Decker, who watched the proceedings from her yard and lives a couple of doors down, there was a lot of smoke at the beginning, but it quickly dissipated. Decker has lived in the neighborhood, where the houses are mostly mobile homes, for 11 years and said fire trucks are frequently called to the area.

“They told me the fire was contained, so my place is safe,” Decker said on that day.

She added that she would have gotten out her water hose and started watering down her roof if necessary. Other neighbors were gathered outside in concern for their neighbors to watch the firemen work.

“We responded [with] two engines, one ladder truck, and one tanker, plus mutual aid from Bulverde Fire with an engine, Blanco with a tanker, and Bexar Bulverde with a tanker,” Chief Eran Denzler of the Spring Branch Volunteer Fire Department said. “[We had] 18 people total on the fire, nine from SBVFD, two [from] Bulverde, two [from] Blanco, three [from] Bexar Bulverde, [and] two [from] B/SB EMS.”

“They made a great stop on it,” Denzler said. “Modular homes normally burn to the ground; even the fire marshal said he was surprised.”

On that Sunday evening, only three days out from the fire, Marliese said she is spending each day looking for something to smile about.

“The kids are alive and we’re alive,” Marliese said. “That’s all that matters.”

Thankful that no people were hurt, the Rangels did lose their two dogs in the fire. One of their two cats fled with the family and Lauren Lee later found the other cat, which sought refuge in a dresser drawer, where it waited out the blaze to see another day.

The outpouring of sympathy and help has overwhelmed the family, Marliese said. With the house being a total loss and the fact that they did not have homeowners insurance, she said they are blessed to have clothes and food given to them and promises of furniture to replace their loss.

“We had just purchased a laptop computer,” Marliese said. “As I watched the house burn, I thought, ‘At least the laptop is in my bedroom (which received the least amount of damage).’”

Later, she would find out that the kids had taken it into the living room and that the machine was completely melted.
“If there is anything I want people to learn from this fire, [it] is get homeowners insurance,” Marliese said emphatically.

Sherri Hamilton, the Frazier children’s mother, said she could not believe how quickly people have come to their aid. The Rangels are staying with Hamilton until further arrangements can be made.

“We have four kids to a room in our three-bedroom house,” Hamilton said. “That’s what you do for friends.”

“I’m surprised at the things that did survive,” Marliese said.

She described a hutch that was virtually untouched, pulling from a box her Willow Tree Angel collection that sat on top of it, which a fireman brought out and handed to her after the fire. The collection had only sustained a patina of soot and Marliese said everything in the hutch was undamaged except for a smell of smoke.

Now, as the Rangels try to collect their lives back together, they face the daunting task of removing the old house. With promises from neighbors to help them with demolition, they do not know how they will afford to haul off the rubble. Bringing in a new mobile home will not be the problem, Marliese said, as they own the lot and all the water and electrical lines are already in place. It will be getting rid of the old one. She said they can afford to purchase a new trailer, but there are no extra funds for removal.

“The main thing is that we need help getting this building down,” Marliese said.

One thing is for sure, Marliese is looking ahead. She said she will not have a gas stove, because that caused her greatest anxiety during the fire. If the blaze had ignited the gas line, several neighbors could have lost their homes, she said.

“When we get the new house, we are doing disaster planning,” she said, promising her children that a fire would not catch them off guard again.