By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A 4-year-old Muleshoe boy was killed Wednesday afternoon in a fire at his residence, according to Muleshoe Police Chief Brian Frieda.
Sixi Alfredo Barrera Ortega was trapped by an intense fire that erupted in a small building behind the family’s residence on Sixth Street, Frieda said.
Ortega’s mother, Maria Barrera, tried to put out the fire using a garden hose, Frieda said, but the fire was so hot the water was ineffective.
“It was just full of smoke. She tried to get in to him but she was driven back by the flames,” Frieda said.
Maria Barrera suffered minor burns, Frieda said.
An autopsy is being conducted to determine whether Ortega died from smoke inhalation or thermal burns, Frieda said.
Frieda said the fire was likely caused when the pilot light of a water heater ignited fumes from a spilled gas can in the building the family used as a laundry room.
The family had been living in the house about a week.
Frieda said Ortega followed his mother outside when she took trash to the garbage receptacle behind the house. The mother told police she heard a strange popping sound and her son began calling her from inside the utility shed. When she reached the building, it was filled with smoke and flames.
Frieda said officials believe when the gas spilled and covered the floor, it began to evaporate in the high afternoon heat, filling the building with combustible vapors. The pop Maria Barrera heard was likely the fumes igniting, Frieda said.
The main residence was damaged by smoke from the fire so the family made temporary living arrangements with extended family in the area, Frieda said.
Investigators are still trying to determine the sequence of events that led to the fire but the bottom line it was a tragic accident, Frieda said.
“What’s done is done. It’s going to be ruled accidental,” he said.
The family plans to hold visitation services in Muleshoe with burial to take place Monday in Mexico at the church where Ortega was christened, Frieda said.
The Texas Migrant Council in Muleshoe has started a trust fund to help the family with travel and burial expenses.
How to help
Texas Migrant Council, Muleshoe: (806) 272-7533