Four found dead in house fire
Last updated 1/15/2023 at 2:01pm
Four people were discovered dead in a Clovis home following a fire early Thursday morning.
Neighbors tried unsuccessfully to rescue the victims, who were all believed to be living in the home in the rear of a house at 511 N. Wallace St.
“I can still hear the screaming,” Gary Hernandez said. Hernandez owns the property. “I couldn’t do anything.”
Hernandez said the structure used to be a garage but it was turned into a home.
Anna Dutton, Hernandez’s sister, said her mother lives next door to the home and her family members heard the residents’ screams and tried to reach them.
“They could hear them by the door, saying ‘It hurts. Please help me,’” Dutton said. “But they couldn’t reach them. The fire was too hot.”
Dutton said fire was coming out of a window on the north side of the house. She said the house has two doors – one faces west, one faces south. One window near the front entrance was boarded up.
Dutton said her nephew “was right by the door.”
“He kept saying ‘Follow my voice.’ They were asking God to please help,” Dutton said.
Dutton said her cousin broke a window and briefly had the hand of someone inside. “Something pulled her back,” Dutton said. “He (her cousin) burned his arm and cut his arm trying to get her out.”
Clovis Deputy Fire Chief Faye Craigmile was asked if she knew why the victims could not make it outside.
“Sometimes smoke makes you disoriented,” Craigmile said.
“All their screams and cries stopped when the roof caved in,” Dutton said.
Dutton said her family members called the fire department but all four victims were dead by the time help arrived.
Craigmile and Dutton said EMTs rescued a dog that was inside the residence.
Lee Hill lives a few houses up from the site of the fire.
“Neighbors screaming for help woke me up,” Hill said. “There was lots of fire, there was nothing you could do, no water hoses, nothing.”
“You had the whole block trying to get in to save them,” Bertha Hernandez said. She lives next door to where the fire was.
Police said authorities were alerted to the fire at 2:18 a.m. Thursday.
“As the fire was being extinguished, four people were found inside the residence, all deceased. The identities of the four subjects have yet to be confirmed,” police said in a news release.
“At this time, the case is being investigated by local and state fire marshals, along with detectives from the Clovis Police Department. It has yet to be determined how the fire started, or if the cause of the fire was a criminal act. We will release additional information once it becomes available.”
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Quentin Ray said on Friday that “there does not appear to be a criminal element to this tragedy.”
Clovis Police Lt. Trevor Thron said Friday the bodies are at the Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) in Albuquerque and were scheduled for autopsies.
Public Information Officer David Lienemann with the State Fire Marshal’s office said it could be a month before the Fire Investigations Bureau, issues a report on the blaze.
While neighbors knew the couple that had rented the home for the past two years, the couple who came to live in the house with the renters about a month ago were not as well known.
“We do not have a positive ID,” Thron said of the victims. “OMI will reach out to the investigators in this case once positive ID has been made.”
David Stevens of The News contributed to this report.