UPDATE: Third child dies after Hemet blaze that also killed father who tried to save his children

UPDATED: Monday, Dec 30, 9 a.m.

See Original Story below.

HEMET — Authorities say a third child has died after a massive blaze that also killed the childrens’ father, when he valiantly raced back into his burning apartment in an effort to save his loved ones.

According to officials the fire began when a dried Christmas tree began to burn and burst into flames. The blaze eventually consumed much of the apartment complex and displaced about 40 other people.

Officials and family members have since identified the four killed in the blaze as 43-year-old Juan Moreno, 12-year-old Maris Moreno, 8-year-old Isaac Moreno, and 4-year-old Janessa Moreno.

After the deadly blaze City of Hemet police investigators, in conjunction with the Hemet Fire Department and investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, were able to determine the blaze was the result “of an electrical fire originating at the Christmas tree,” Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown reported as the investigation was continuing.

“This tragedy underscores how quickly a fire can spread,” Brown said in a written press release.

“Smoke Alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan,” Brown continued; saying, “Smoke Alarms provide that critical early warning so you can get out quickly.”

Family members have established a GoFundMe account to help offset funeral and burial costs for those killed in the blaze. As of this update the fundraiser had raised more than $43,000 toward its stated $20,000 goal, and donations were continuing to pour in for the devastated family.

Original Story: Father, 2 children dead after Hemet blaze – Third child in grave condition

HEMET — A massive blaze that ripped through a Hemet apartment overnight has claimed the lives of three people, including a father of five who reportedly ran back into the inferno while attempting to rescue three of his children, two of whom were also killed in the blaze. A third child was critically injured and was listed in grave condition after the fire, which erupted early Friday morning, Dec. 27, at the Olive Apartments at 150 N Alessandro St.

This morning’s deadly fire was the third major Hemet blaze in as many days, after two separate and unrelated fires destroyed a motorhome and a mobile home Christmas eve, last Tuesday, Dec. 24


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City of Hemet Fire and Police personnel, along with sheriff’s deputies, AMR, and other emergency responders, were first alerted to the blaze just after 1 a.m., Hemet Police Lt. Nate Miller reported after the deadly fire.

When officials arrived at the scene they discovered a working fire on the northeast side of the complex, which consists of 25 residences. Most of the residents had self-evacuated from their homes by the time firefighters arrived, according to Miller.

Firefighters desperately battled an apartment blaze before discovering four victims, including a father and three of his five children, inside a destroyed apartment. John Strangis/RMG News video

While firefighters were setting up to battle the blaze and officers raced through the complex searching for anyone who had not already evacuated their homes, a frantic woman notified officers that the fire began in her apartment, before spreading to  other nearby homes.

The woman also told officers she was able to wake her husband, who assisted in evacuating the couple’s infant and an 11-year-old child, before racing back into the burning apartment for their other three children. He had not been seen since running back into the burning building.

Firefighters eventually knocked down the blaze and entered the apartment, at which time they located the father and three children inside the apartment.

After removing the four victims from the apartment, paramedics determined the 41-year-old father had already succumbed to injuries sustained in the fire and he was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The three children pulled from the destroyed apartment were rushed to area hospitals with CPR in progress, where two of them, described as 4-year-old and 12-year-old girls, later died from their injuries.

The third child, an 8-year-old boy who was critically injured in the blaze, was eventually airlifted to UCI Medical Center in Orange County, where he was listed in grave condition.

No other injuries were reported and none of the victims have been publicly identified, pending further investigation, according to Miller; who said the cause and origin of the fire remain under investigation.

Family members have established a GoFundMe account to help offset funeral and burial costs for those killed in the blaze, as well as medical expenses for the surviving child.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact Hemet Police Detective Sgt. Gabriel Gomez at (951) 765-2396. Callers can remain anonymous.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.

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John Strangis/RMG News photos

John Strangis/RMG News video

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.