Four Killed In Fire

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A father and son have been identified as two of the four people who were killed in an apartment building fire Tuesday. Forty-one-year-old Juaquin Camargo Sr. and 11-year-old Christopher Camargo are among the dead.

The other two people killed, a woman and a young child, had not been identified by Tuesday night.

Along with the four people killed, Police Sergeant Teresa Negron says 12 people were taken to area hospitals around 3 a.m. One was in serious condition.

Witness Terry Rody says, "We were sitting out on the front porch, just watching the lightning and stuff. All of a sudden we see a bright bolt of lightning and it wasn't two seconds later that there was flames 30 feet in the air coming out of that window."

Fire Survivors

That was approximately 2:30 Tuesday morning.

Witnesses say paramedics worked for several minutes on two people who were pulled from the apartment building and later pronounced dead at the scene.

Assistant Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing says, "The toughest part for the firefighters is working that hard and then finding a victim -- someone who hasn't made it out."

It was a chaotic scene when authorities arrived. There were a number of people on the lawn in front of the apartment house needing medical attention and more people were climbing out of windows in the three-story wood and brick building.

Omaha Fire Department Battalion Chief Joe Fuxa says the blaze appears to have started in a stairway.

Fuxa said firefighters used ladders to evacuate residents from the second and third levels. He said residents dropped children from windows to firefighers below.

Neighbor Ray Sheibal says, "There was a little girl on the top floor – the third floor and it's pretty far down. But I put my arms out and they dropped her down. She's probably about five or six-year-old. And I caught her -- it knocked me to the ground -- and tried to get her away from the fire."

Corine Alvarado says she lives a block away from the apartment building. She learned of the fire around 3 a.m. when she went outside to retrieve laundry from a clothesline and she says, ``I saw everybody was running up and down the street, and you could just smell it.''

Two men who live in a basement apartment tell Channel 6 News that they were awakened by fire alarms and they knocked on doors to notify others.

Fire survivor Vicent Aranda was nearly speechless in the aftermath of the blaze.

"I don't have more words," he said.

All he wanted to do was get up and go to work Tuesday morning. Instead, he found himself scrambling for his life. Once out of the building he tried to save others.

"I see a lot of people yelling 'help, help'" he said. "I helped a lot but because no shoes, no nothing, it's difficult for me to help a lot of people."

Beverly McDaniel is a neighbor of the apartment and she says, "I came to the window and when I look out, I saw quite a few people running around the apartment house and it looked like a child was hanging out of the window.

It was through a window that Hilaria Sanchez and her family survived. She cut her hand jumping out a second story window and then found herself wrapped in a blanket because she had no clothes.

The police department's arson and homicide units are investigating.

The Red Cross set up a shelter inside a lobby at South High School, about a block away, where apartment house residents could get water, sports drinks or coffee. About two dozen residents and their children, some wrapped in blankets, sat on the steps at the school, many with blank looks on their faces. Vouchers for food and clothing were distributed.

There are two dozen apartments in the building and two were vacant but the building owners say they don't know exactly how many people were living there.

The last fire inspection done on the building was in 1997 but for an existing building, unless a complaint is filed, inspections are not required. Back then, the report came back clean. The smoke alarms in all units were working as was the fire alarm system in the hallway.

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