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Thread: Saves brother, dies in fire
11-05-07, 10:10 AM #1
Saves brother, dies in fire
An 18-year-old killed in an early morning fire Sunday was trapped in a bedroom after he made sure two 13-year-olds escaped the burning house safely, his mother said.
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Justin Vera, 18, stayed behind to try to rescue three dogs.
Justin Vera was one of three people inside a two-story Fairview home when fire broke out on the second floor, where the three teens were sleeping, around 6 a.m.
"My son died trying to save his brother and his friend and three dogs," a tearful Martha Castro said after meeting with Anchorage Fire Department inspectors Sunday afternoon at her Fairview home.
Two of the three dogs died. Vera's brother, Brandon Castro, suffered minor burns on an arm. The other teen was not injured.
The boys told Anchorage Fire Department investigators that after Vera knew they had escaped from the house, he tried to find three small dogs that were hiding as the second floor burned.
Vera was trapped in a back bedroom, fire department spokeswoman Jennifer Klugh said.
Rescuers reached him by ladder through a window and carried him out the front door and down a set of outdoor steps. Vera was pronounced dead at Alaska Regional Hospital.
Vera, who played junior varsity football a year ago at West High as a junior but left school before his senior year, ordinarily lived in a different part of the house at 1211 E. 11th, Klugh said.
The home is made up of two connecting structures.
In the front is a long, low one-story house with an A-frame entry. Vera lived there with his grandparents and another boy. In the back is a two-story house with a long flight of steps leading to the second-floor entry. Martha Castro, Brandon Castro, his sister and a fourth person live there, Klugh said.
The fire was contained to the second floor of the structure in the back.
On almost any other night, Vera would have been sleeping in the one-story building up front, which sustained no fire or smoke damage.
But his mother was out of town for the weekend, so Vera spent Saturday night in the back structure so he could watch Brandon and a friend, who was not identified.
"My son was a good kid," Martha Castro said. "He told me, 'Go, Mommy, go on a vacation. I know you need the rest. Everything will be OK.'
"I got stuck in Fairbanks last night and I called him and he said don't worry, everything will be OK."
Klugh said the 13-year-old boys told fire investigators they heard popping sounds around 6 a.m. They said they woke up Vera, who was sleeping in a back bedroom.
Vera called 911 from the burning house and so did one of the 13-year-olds, Klugh said. The two younger boys escaped -- possibly by jumping out a window, though fire investigators couldn't confirm that -- and ran to a neighbor's house, where they called 911 again.
"The older boy was trying to save the dogs," Klugh said.
The first of 11 units arrived five minutes after the first call. In all, 22 units responded, and the fire was contained in 26 minutes, Klugh said. Anchorage Police Department officers also responded.
She said the cause of the fire was still being determined Sunday afternoon and that it looked unintentional. It caused an estimated $50,000 in damage, she said.
Vera is at least the fifth person killed in house fires in Anchorage this year.
Three little boys were killed by an Eagle River fire in January, and a 6-year-old boy was killed in a Fort Richardson fire in April.
11-05-07, 03:38 PM #2
Sad story. The kid was a brave soul............................................
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