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The Prospector

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The Prospector

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The Prospector

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Death in family brings forth fire safety awareness



The balloons and confetti that once lit up a birthday party, turned into black attire with white roses that decorated three caskets a year ago.

Only three days before her birthday, Karyna Mendoza woke up to a call at 4:30 a.m. saying that her sister’s apartment was in flames.

“I asked my mom what happened and she told me,” Karyna Mendoza said. “We drove over to my sister’s apartment and my dad was already there. We wanted to go in to see what was going on but there were a lot of firefighters.”

On Nov. 2, 2015, a fire broke out at Las Casitas Apartments, where 32-year-old Magaly Mendoza and her two daughters, 3-year-old Paulina Ortega,  and 11-year-old Andrea Garcia, were inside the apartment.

“One of my other sisters was in the apartment and she woke up to a noise that something broke and when she woke up there was a lot of smoke,” Karyna Mendoza said.

The sister at the apartment when the fire broke out was Perla Mendoza, who tried to wake up Magaly. After she failed to answer, Perla escaped the fire with her toddler who was 4 years old at the time.  

“My sister (Magaly) had already passed away during that time because she wasn’t moving,” Mendoza said. “My nieces had woken up, but my sister (Perla) had her baby with her.  She told my nieces to follow them, and when she got out they had stayed inside the apartment with my sister (Magaly).”

Paulina Ortega passed away in the ambulance and Andrea Garcia was pronounced dead in the hospital hours later.  

“It’s been a year,  but it’s still hard to accept,” Karyna Mendoza said. “I am not going to lie, we always have our moments, but I just want everybody to know they were really happy people.”

Despite the hardship, the Mendoza family wants to keep the memory of the tragedy alive and use it to bring about fire awareness.   

“Not a lot of people bring fire safety up because there hadn’t been an accident the way it happened to us.  So that’s why we try to bring awareness to everybody,” Karyna Mendoza said.

The family used the victims’ initials to form the acronym MAP, and they use it as a safety plan to create maps in homes to educate children and train them in case of an emergency.

“My little nieces didn’t know what to do other than that they wanted to stay with their mom. At that age they are not thinking what to do,” Karyna Mendoza said.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, the family created the first ever fire safety awareness assembly in commemoration of Magaly, Andrea and Paulina.  

Over 50 community members, family and friends attended the event, where biodegradable balloons were released in their memory. The El Paso Fire Department also attended to interact with children and help them create their home’s escape plan.

“We started to help people learn the importance of having an evacuation plan in case anything happens like this to anyone else.  We are trying to avoid another tragedy happening to any other family,” Karyna Mendoza said.

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Death in family brings forth fire safety awareness