Fire that claimed 3 lives in 2013 still under investigation

The cause of a fire late last year that claimed the lives of two 5-year-old children and the man who tried to save them remains under investigation, the Merced Fire Department said Thursday.

Geraldine Figueroa-Perez and Jesus Perez-Manzo, both 5, and 31-year-old Ignacio Figueroa-Bautista died in a fire Dec. 3, 2013, at the family’s home at 264 E. 10th St. in Merced.

Firefighters said Figueroa-Bautista died trying to rescue the two children. Figueroa-Bautista saved his wife, Maricela Perez, 28, and his infant daughter, Kaily, before rushing back into the burning home to save the other two children.

Investigators have not released the cause of the fire, but have said it appears to have been accidental.

“We have determined the fire started inside the house, but exactly where and how it started is still undetermined,” Battalion Fire Chief Don Roe said.

Roe said the firefighters are waiting for the results of an electrical analysis conducted by private insurance investigators to determine the fire’s cause. “We haven’t ruled anything out in terms of a cause at this point,” Roe told the Sun-Star.

Roe said there’s no timetable for completing the investigation. The battalion chief said it’s common for these types of investigations to take many months or longer.

“It’s complicated because there are a lot of different investigators involved, attorneys involved and everyone has to do their due diligence,” Roe said. “It’s not unusual because it can be very complicated and the (electrical) analysis can take a lot of time.”