Nayte Rodriguez was nursing her baby in one room. Teresa Diaz was playing dominoes with some of her house mates in the living room. Somebody else was eating a bowl of corn flakes in the kitchen.
Then the lights went out.
They didn't see the smoke. And they couldn't yet smell it. But in the attic directly above their dining room table, fire officials believe, an electrically caused blaze was erupting.
'Ran Out ... With Nothing'
The 7:30 p.m. Christmas fire in the four-bedroom El Toro home forced 11 people, including four children, out into the cold night air.
"We ran out like this, with nothing," Diaz said Saturday as she stood outside the heavily damaged home. Its roof had been reduced to a skeleton and the floors were now muddy and covered with charred pieces of debris.
None of the residents was hurt in the fire, which destroyed almost all their belongings. A firefighter suffered a minor injury when a nail got stuck in his foot, an Orange County Fire Department spokesman said.
Members of several families were tenants in the house, according to the residents and their landlord.
Residents said recent windstorms had led to some electrical problems in the 23586 Duryea Drive house, and a Fire Department spokesman said Saturday that the blaze might have been caused by an electrical short circuit in the attic. The fire caused about $60,000 in damage to the home and its contents, the spokesman said. The fire spared the walls but caused the roof to cave in, leaving the residents homeless. Some, such as Diaz and her two children, have relatives to stay with. Others, such as Rodriguez and her baby, have nowhere to go.
"And on Christmas day. That's sad," said Carmen Sanchez, a niece of Diaz and one of several relatives trying to console the residents Saturday.
The American Red Cross was lodging five of the residents at an area hotel and providing them with food and clothing, spokeswoman Barbara Lohman said. After a few days, however, they will have to find a place to stay. And on Saturday, many were visibly upset over the grim prospect.
"They don't know what they're going to do," said Luis Sanchez, the landlord. After the fire, Sanchez took in Diaz--who is his sister-in-law,--her children and another couple with their baby. The others said they couldn't even guess what would happen after next week.
Those who fled the house said they lost practically everything, although one man didn't give in without a fight.
As the fire raged, Daniel Fernandez dashed into the burning house. His wife, Carmen, stood outside holding their baby while Fernandez salvaged some of the child's clothing. Then he ran in again and got some other "baby stuff," said Patty Wingard, a niece of Diaz who was visiting the family Saturday.
"Daniel was just running out grabbing stuff," Wingard said. "He ran out once just with a pacifier. The baby had to have the pacifier."