Investigation under way after home fire kills mom, girl (w/video)
Gerardo Gordillo could hear the screams coming from the house next door.
When he ran outside Friday morning, he saw thick clouds of smoke pouring from the red brick home.
The screams Gordillo heard were coming from relatives of a woman and a small girl, believed to be her daughter, whose bodies were later discovered by firefighters in one of the bedrooms of the home in west Harris County.
The blaze was one of three battled by local firefighters that resulted in deaths or major damage on Friday. A strip mall was heavily damaged on Clay Road, and a Heights home was also razed.
In the west county fire, Lt. Dean Hensley with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said a woman came to the house about 9:30 a.m. to visit her sister when she noticed the smoke.
Gordillo and another man ran to the front door, which was locked. They eventually managed to knock a hole through it.
Gordillo squeezed through the narrow gap, discovering that someone from inside the home had pushed a sofa against the front door.
"The lady said there were kids in there. I was trying to get in," Gordillo said later, after the investigators and grieving family members left the scene.
Although he couldn't see because of the thick clouds of choking smoke, Gordillo made his way through his neighbor's house.
"The smoke was too intense. My eyes were burning," Gordillo said.
He stumbled outside and raced to the back door, which also was locked. Gordillo and other neighbors began smashing windows, hoping to rescue the woman and her child.
"We just couldn't get in. There was too much smoke," he said.
Before Cy-Fair volunteer firefighters arrived at the burning home, neighbors battled the flames with hand-held fire extinguishers.
Fire marshals said Friday they were in the early stages of their investigation into the fire. They believe the blaze began in the bedroom.
"The exact cause is still under investigation and we are working closely with the Harris County Sheriff's department's homicide division on this case," Hensley said.
Sheriff's detectives have launched a homicide investigation into the deaths. The identities of the woman and the girl would not be officially confirmed until after an autopsy.
Neighbors identified the woman as Liliana Micolta, who is listed in Harris County records as the home owner.
Gordillo said he last saw her Thursday evening.
"She looked normal. Just like every day," he said.
Later Friday, neighbors began leaving small stuffed animals in the front yard as a makeshift memorial to the young girl who lost her life.
On Friday, Cy-Fair firefighters also fought a blaze that broke out about 9:30 a.m. at a strip center in the 4300 block of Texas 6.
The fire was brought under control within about 90 minutes. Investigators believe it was an accident, caused by discarded smoking materials, officials said.
On Friday, Houston firefighters battled a house fire near W. 14th and Laird in the Heights. They kept the flames from spreading to a used car lot next door.