House fire destroys Park Avenue home (w/video)

How to help

To donate to the Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross, call 361-573-2671. The Victoria office is at 1501 E. Red River St., Suite A1.

To donate clothing to the family, men's shirts in sizes medium and large, pants sizes 32 and 36 and men's shoes 81/2and 101/2 are needed. Steven Palacios can be reached at 361-218-6761.

When Mary Ellen Ramirez saw amber waves of fire pouring out the windows of her home, her instinct was to run inside to save her grandson's 3-year-old Chihuahua.

Ramirez ran into the home about three times, searching for Duke - escaping the grip of a neighbor who risked his own life to rush into the burning building to save her.

Emergency responders with the Victoria Fire Department had to tear her from the home, black soot smearing her face, hair singed and tears rolling down her face.

"I thought the worst," Steven Palacios, 22, said about the call he got from a next-door neighbor. "My grandmother raised me - she means the world to me."

The fire department responded to the blaze at the single-story home in the 1000 block of Park Avenue about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Fire Chief Taner Drake said the home was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived and took about 15 minutes to control. The blaze gutted the entire house, which according to the Victoria Central Appraisal District, was 783 square feet.

Ramirez was taken to Citizens Medical Center from the fire and treated for smoke inhalation, her family said. She was released late Wednesday.

Duke died in the fire.

Ramirez was recovering in a small, separate back house behind the Park Avenue home Wednesday night but was still unable to talk about the trauma of the fire. Outside, friends and family members gathered in the same backyard that Palacios remembers crushing cascarones on the heads of loved ones and eating barbecue with his family.

He said the memories of the home he grew up in - the house his great-grandfather built by hand more than a hundred years ago - will be the hardest to shake.

"I'm surprised I'm not crying right now," he said, staring at the yellow house now tainted a heavy black color, windows busted open and what's left of his and his cousin's possessions littered in the yard. "I'm not worried, though. It's all in God's hands."

The American Red Cross responded to the fire Wednesday night and provided temporary relief for the family.

Barbara Neville, disaster program manager, said the nonprofit considers the cost of food, clothing and shelter for a couple days and provides the family with money to cover those costs.

"I still can't say that this really happened," Palacios said. "It hurts, but we're going to get through this."