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7 Die in 'Devastating' Monterey County Fire

June 14, 1989|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

GREENFIELD, Calif. — Seven people, including four children, were killed when an intense fire engulfed their triplex apartment in this small farming community north of King City in Monterey County, authorities said Tuesday.

Another potential victim, identified by an uncle as 9-year-old Freddie Pacheco, escaped when he was led from the burning structure by 17-year-old Ray Green Jr., son of a Greenfield police officer, Fire Chief Eddie Banuelos said.

"The fire was devastating," Banuelos said Monday. "It happened so quickly."

The fire chief said that 18 members of the Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department--manning two engines and a pickup truck--were on the scene within minutes of the 10:30 p.m. alarm Monday and quickly suppressed the blaze, confining it to the kitchen and living room of one of three units of a converted candy factory.

But for the residents, it was already too late.

"We found six victims in the living room," Banuelos said. "They were rather close to one another. We had one girl who was in one of the bedrooms."

That child, Rocio Villa, 8, was rushed to George L. Mee Memorial Hospital in King City, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, according to acting Police Chief Mike Romo.

"This is the worst I've seen in 21 years here," Romo told the Salinas Californian. "It's just devastating they didn't get out. A thing of this magnitude, when you have multiple numbers of bodies, and particularly children, it's a very emotional situation."

The coroner's office identified the seven dead as:

Farm worker Artemio Garcia, 30; Abel Garcia, 2, his son; Zenaida Olga Pacheco, 30, Garcia's wife; Maria Jaqueline Villa, 6, daughter of Zenaida Pacheco; Rocio Villa, another daughter of Zenaida Pacheco; Gabreala Salgado, about 22, and her son, Gabriel Salgado, age 10 to 12 months.

Witnesses reported a muffled explosion shortly before the fire erupted, according to Banuelos, but he said the cause of the blaze had not been determined and was under investigation by Monterey County's fire and arson investigators and the state fire marshal's office.

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