LONG BEACH — Pat Orozco lay still with her eyes closed in her hospital bed, her burned arms swathed in sleeves of white netting. An IV line dripped into one arm. Oxygen flowed into her nose.
She indicated that she was too weak to talk, but her first words were:
"I did my best. I loved those kids."
According to the family, the 49-year-old Huntington Beach baby-sitter made a heroic attempt to get all four children out of her house, which served as a family day-care home, when fire broke out Thursday morning. Orozco ran out of the burning house with a child under each arm but was unable to rescue two babies, who died in the fire.
Orozco suffered second-degree burns on her arms and shoulders, as well as smoke inhalation. She was listed in fair condition Thursday night at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where she was transferred in the afternoon at her request.
Through parched lips, she softly answered 'yes' and 'no' to a few questions about the fatal fire.
No, she did not know how the fire started. "I just saw flames," she said.
Yes, she picked up two of the four children she was taking care of and ran out with them under her arms. Yes, she tried to go back for the others, but no, she couldn't get back into the house "because of the flames."
She felt so sad, she said, because she loved the children "like they're my very own."
But details of what happened eluded her. "It's all kind of blank right now," she said weakly. Her last words before drifting back to sleep were:
"Just pray for us."
According to family and friends, Orozco has lived in the neighborhood for about 30 years and was a longtime baby-sitter.
Neighbor Betty Jordan described her as "someone who really cares about children. She sometimes took care of my grandchild. We're all in a state of shock about this."
Added Eric Fernandez, 23, a neighbor who helped in the attempt to rescue the children: "She used to baby-sit me. She's been around here for a long time."
Orozco, a mother of four, began taking in children about 15 years ago, shortly before her youngest daughter--now 14--was born, according to the baby-sitter's mother, Lillian Brazamontes, 67, of Westminster.
Her daughter did not want to work outside the home, she said. "She always liked to stay at home, and she got to thinking about watching kids."
Through the years, her daughter watched with pride as her charges grew up. "She raised them since they were little babies, until they were 5 years old," Brazamontes said.
"She is licensed and she is dedicated," Orozco's youngest child, Rachel Yennie, said outside Humana Hospital in Huntington Beach, where her mother was first treated. Rachel said of one of the boys who died, "I loved him like family."
"She loved those kids," Orozco's son, Joe Sartain, 28, of Garden Grove, said of his mother. "It was a tragedy. She did what she could."
Orozco's mother said she occasionally baby-sat while her daughter went to the doctor or ran errands, so Brazamontes knew the children involved in the fire.
"I still can't believe it happened. God, how horrible," Brazamontes said at the Long Beach hospital. "And to make it worse, there's the two that didn't make it. How awful."
"Pat's a good woman," added the baby-sitter's brother, Joe Orozco, 48, of Torrance. "She probably wishes she died first."
Times staff writer Mary Lou Fulton contributed to this report
2 INFANTS DIE--A baby-sitter rescues two babies but two others perish in fire. Part I, Page 1