By Kathi Bliss
A Lockhart family was displaced in the early hours of Sunday morning when a fire ravaged their Parkview Drive home, leaving family members hospitalized and three generations trying to rebuild from the ground up.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office was on scene on Tuesday trying to determine the cause of the fire that leveled the two-story home in the 1600 block of Parkview Drive on Sunday morning, leaving eight, including a career US Army soldier, homeless.
Neighbors said they knew there was trouble in the pre-dawn hours on Sunday, Feb. 24 when smoked choked the area. One neighbor reported waking up in the early-morning hours to a pounding on her door that was the desperate plea of 42-year-old Veronica Velazquez who had, only moments before, escaped her two-story home which was engulfed in flames.
“She said that the smell of the smoke woke her up,” said Lockhart Fire Chief Jerry Doyle. “And that’s very rare. Normally, it’s a smoke alarm or some other apparatus that wakes people up.”
Velazquez, who shared the home with her parents and three children while her husband was deployed to Afghanistan, was asleep in the master suite of the house when the fire broke out. Although her parents, who shared living quarters in the lower level of the home, were able to escape through the front and back doors, Velazquez and her children, along with a visiting family friend, had to jump from a second-story window to escape the blaze.
“My grandmother broke everyone’s fall,” said an emotional Eddie Velazquez on Tuesday. The eldest son of the family, Eddie lives in Chicago and was not at the residence when the fire broke out. When he received the news that his family home had burned, he booked a flight and returned to Central Texas.
“She told them all… ‘jump, and I’ll catch you,’” he said. “It’s… she’s remarkable, what she did.”
But there was no other choice.
One by one, as Veronica, her children and a family friend leapt out the second story window, Raquel Garza, 69, used her body to shield her loved ones from the pavement below, sustaining significant injuries herself in the process.
However, by Tuesday, each member of the Velazquez household had been released from the hospital, and all were expected to make a full recovery from the injuries and smoke inhalation sustained in the fire.
Recovering from their injuries is the easy part. Rebuilding their lives will be harder.
The home, which the Velazquez family purchased in 2005, is a total loss, with only portions of the garage and the front façade of the home still standing. Although their vehicles were not significantly damaged in the blaze, all keys were left in the residence when the family fled.
In fact, according to Eddie, those in residence fled the home with only the clothes on their backs. In most cases, they didn’t even have shoes on their feet.
“My family, we have nothing,” he said through a choked throat on Tuesday afternoon as he stared at the wreckage that was his family home. “Everything we had, we lost.”
Though the losses were significant, Eddie, 24, expressed gratitude and joy that the losses were not worse.
“Our main concern, of course, is getting everyone out of the hospital and getting everyone healthy,” he said. “After that, when my father gets home, we will start thinking about temporary housing. In the meantime, we’re just so grateful and blessed, and we are accepting everything that our neighbors and community want to do for us with love, and with open arms.”
Eduardo Velazquez, Sr., received and emergency leave from his deployment to Afghanistan, and was traveling back to Lockhart to help his family rebuild their lives.
“We don’t know right now how long his leave will be, but it might only be two weeks,” Eddie said. “We have a lot to do, and we’re just trying to work through the process.”
That “process” includes feeding, clothing and housing a family of eight, ranging in ages from 5 years old to 70. The family is currently housed in an area hotel, with expenses being paid by the Red Cross.
Eventually, however, that support will run out, and the family will have to start fresh.
To assist in those efforts, Omnibank, NA, has set up a special account for the Velazquez Family, and is accepting donations at their Lockhart location, (PO Box 300, Lockhart, Texas). Donations allocated toward the Velazquez Family Emergency Fund will be directed to that special account.
In addition, neighbors have made accommodations to accept donations of furnishing, clothing and other home goods, to be stored until the family has found temporary housing.
At the request of the Velazquez family, personal contact information for the family will not be shared publicly. Instead, those interested in making donations should contact Kathi Bliss at the Lockhart Post-Register via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Facebook, and those requests will be forwarded to the family. Items may also be mailed or delivered to Fermin Islas at 1702 Meadow Lane, Lockhart, Texas, 78644. Islas requests that donors contact him at (512) 376-8555 prior to dropping off donations, to ensure that someone is available to receive items.
The family’s current needs are as follows:
- Furnishings, dishes and other household items;
- Towels, linens and home goods
- Clothing, shoes and other items for the following family members:
Yesennia (female, 5): Shirts, pants and underthings – 5T; Shoes – 11;
Markus (male, 13): Shirts – Large; Pants – 34×30; Shoes – 9; Underwear – Medium;
Lilianna (female, 17): Shirts – Small; Pants – 0/Small; Shoes – 6.5/7; Underwear – XS, 32A;
Roxanna (female, 21): Shirts – Medium; Pants – 3/Small; Shoes – 7.5 – 8; Underwear – 4/Small/34B;
Veronica (female, 42): Shirts – Medium; Pants – 5; Shoes – 8.5; Underwear – 7/34A;
Raquel (female, 69): Shirts – Large; Pants – 12/14; Shoes – 6; Underwear – Medium/38A;
Julian (male, 70): Shirts – Extra-Large; Pants – 38×29/Large; Shoes – 9.5-10; Underwear – Extra-Large; and
Eduardo, Sr. (male, 42): Shirts – Large; Pants – 32×30/Large; Shoes – 9.5; Underwear – Medium.