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Apartment Fire Leaves 10 Homeless : Oxnard: A 5-year-old, who police say started the blaze, had to be persuaded by his brother to unlock the door and leave the room he set flame to.

August 30, 1994|GREG RIPPEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A 5-year-old boy playing with a cigarette lighter started a fire in an Oxnard apartment Monday afternoon that left 10 people, including the boy's mother and his five siblings, without a home, authorities said.

Esther Santana, 42, an unemployed farm laborer, was taking a nap when the second-floor bedroom in the 900 block of Cheyenne Way burst into flames, said 18-year-old Toni Santana, her oldest son.

Another son, 13-year-old Mario Santana, said he was the first to alert family members and had to talk his little brother, whom authorities said started the fire in one of the unit's three bedrooms, into unlocking the door so he could take the boy to safety.

In addition to Santana and her six children, including a 1 1/2-year-old, the fire displaced three occupants of an adjoining unit. Fire officials and neighbors identified them as Gracie Meza and Manny Rodriguez, ages unknown, and a child who lived with them.

The fire, which started at about 4:12 p.m., was extinguished in about 30 minutes and caused an estimated $70,000 in damage to the building and another $25,000 to its contents, said Battalion Chief Murray Glidden of the Oxnard Fire Department.

Later Monday, as the Red Cross made temporary housing arrangements for the victims, the Santanas recovered what they could from the smoke- and fire-damaged unit.

Among the items collected were neatly folded clothes that the children had intended to wear to school today, some with their price tags still attached.

Also gathered were the Pop Warner football equipment worn by Mario Santana and his brother, 9-year-old Jorge, and the cheerleader outfit for their 12-year-old sister, Mayra.

Toni Santana, a former nose guard for the football team at Hueneme High School, said his mother, who is single, immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico, as a teen-ager and had long supported the family picking "apples, strawberries, lemons, you name it."

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