AUSTIN (KXAN) - After rescuing four others from a blaze in East Austin, firefighters found Josefina Valdez Martinez, 93, dead inside the home.
Jay Rodriguez was not home when the fire broke out and told KXAN News he is distraught over his grandmother's death. He said his grandmother was battling cancer and was recently told she didn't have long to live.
The grandmother -- whom the family says was age 95, while her driver's license says she was born in 1919 -- lived in the house with her two daughters and her son, all of whom were taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with critical burns. They were identified as Socorro Martinez, Cuko Martinez and Licha Martinez. The two women, ages 72 and 76, are also being treated for smoke inhalation, with one of them listed in serious condition. The man is listed as age 56.
Jay Rodriguez's father, Rudy Rodriguez, is the grandmother's son-in-law and made it out from an adjacent house on the property. He stayed to help fight the fire and was later taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge, treated and released.
Jay Rodriguez said the three people who lived in the burned house were his uncle and two aunts.
The accidental electrical fire began at about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday at 5311 Chico St., near Airport Boulevard and Springdale Road. The neighbors saw the fire, called 911 and tried knocking on the doors to get people out.
Rescuers pulled the three people from the home at the front of the property and then later pulled a fourth from another building behind it.
A search uncovered the elderly woman's body inside one of the bedrooms in the main house, according to Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr.
Firefighters had to focus on the rescues initially, and that delayed their efforts to put out the flames.
In addition, fire crews had issues getting into the home -- and people inside had trouble getting out -- because there were security bars on the home and a heavy, metal-framed front security door.
Kerr said in a Tuesday afternoon briefing that families should practice exit drills in their homes. She stressed to be sure to have working smoke alarms installed, which this home did not have. She also said to be sure that burglar bars on a home don't trap people inside.
About 60 firefighters responded to the blaze, working to make sure no hot spots flared up and that crews rotated to rest. One firefighter did suffered burn injuries to his neck and shoulder.
The family has set up a fund in honor of the grandmother and to help pay for medical expenses for the family at A+ Federal Credit Union , account number 273256.
Damages are estimated as $175,000 to the structure and $90,000 to the home's contents.
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