Grandmother, 3 Children Killed in Haltom City House Fire

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    NEWSLETTERS

    About 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Haltom City home where three children and their grandmother died in a fire.

    Haltom City neighbors are mourning the deaths of three children and their grandmother who were killed in a house fire in Haltom City on Thursday evening.

    About 100 neigbhors gathered at a vigil Friday night outside the home to remember 3-year-old Jayleen Rayos, 5-year-old Gene Rayos, 2-month-old Jaime Moran Jr. and their 52-year-old Martiza Garces.

    The fire was reported at a two-story home in the 4900 block of Colonial Park at about 5:15 p.m. on Thursday. It appeared from Chopper 5 that the fire was out before 6 p.m.

    Three Children, Grandmother Killed in Haltom City House Fire

    [DFW] Three Children, Grandmother Killed in Haltom City House Fire
    The investigation continues into a Haltom City house fire that claimed the lives of 52-year-old Maritza Garces, 2-month-old Jaime Moran Jr., 3-year-old Jayleen Rayos and 5-year-old Gene Ravos. All were critically injured in a house fire Thursday afternoon and died later at hospitals.

    MedStar EMS said fire crews pulled two siblings, Jayleen and Gene Rayos; their 2-month-old cousin, Jaime Moran Jr.; and their 52-year-old grandmother, Martiza Garces; out of the fire. They sustained smoke inhalation and had minor burns, MedStar said.

    Earlier reports based on preliminary information incorrectly listed the children's ages and some of their relationships. The victims' family and emergency officials later provided the correct details.

    Investigation Continues Into Cause of Haltom City Fire

    [DFW] Investigation Continues Into Cause of Haltom City Fire
    Haltom City fire-rescue officials continue to investigate the cause of a fire that killed a grandmother and her three grandchildren Thursday night. They believe the fire started in the living room hear a live Christmas tree.

    Yessenia Garces, the mother of Jayleen and Gene Rayos, spoke to reporters on Friday.

    "I don't know anything that's going on right now," she said. "I want to know what happened to my babies. I want to know what happened to my mom."

    "When I left yesterday morning, I didn't expect to come home to this," she said through tears.

    Firefighters found the children and the grandmother upstairs, MedStar said.

    The children were taken to Cook Children's Medical Center, and Martiza Garces was taken to North Hills Hospital. MedStar confirmed later Thursday night that the three children and their grandmother had died.

    Crews from North Richland Hills and Fort Worth assisted Haltom City firefighters in battling the fire.

    Yessenia Garces and her children lived in the home with her mother, relatives said. The grandmother was babysitting Jaime Moran Jr. at the home.

    Virtually all of the home's contents are a total loss, and Yessenia Garces said the family does not have enough to cover funerals or living expenses.

    "All I need is some help," she said. "When I left her sitting in the morning, I didn't expect to come home to this."

    A memorial fund has been set up in her name at Wells Fargo branches.

    Arson investigators said the fire started as an accident near a live Christmas tree in the home. What caused the tree to burn was not made clear.

    Neighbors Mourn the Victims

    A neighbor called 911 when he noticed the fire.

    "I walked out and I noticed the front window -- there was smoking coming out of it -- so I ran next to it to the curb and I yelled, 'Hey! Your house! The house is on fire! Is anybody in there?' And nobody said anything, so I called 911," Phillip Heard said.

    Heard said he thought the house was empty.

    Several neighbors broke down when they heard the news about the deaths.

    Heard said he was heartbroken.

    "It's just very devastating to know that this tragedy happened," he said.

    Neighbor Kaylee O'Reilly remembers the happy family next door where Christmas decorations are still outside, and, now, stuffed animals are on the lawn as a memorial.

    "The little girl would always be, like, doing cartwheels, like, all through the grass," O'Reilly said. "And Gene and the little cousin always asked to come and play with my dogs, Coby and Blaze."

    "They had a huge family, there would be so many kids over here, and my little cousins would play with their cousins and they would play too," O'Reilly remembers.

    "Oh, we're here for them," said Connie Webb, another neighbor. "We're just a close neighborhood. We try to be, a lot of us, and we try to watch out for each other's homes, even if we don't know each other."

    Webb said the children's mother was at work when the fire broke out and rushed home in tears.

    "I hugged her when she walked up and I said, 'Go to the hospital and be with your family. We'll watch out for your home and take care of everything,'" Webb said.

    The cause of the fire is under investigation.

    NBC 5's Amanda Guerra, Mark Schnyder, Ken Kalthoff and Scott Gordon contributed to this report.