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Three killed in Wellton house fire
One of the oldest family homes in Wellton became a site of tragedy Thursday when it was consumed by fire, killing a woman and her two young children. The three died in a fire that destroyed the Rivera home, 29117 E. Arizona Ave., at approximately 4 a.m. Thursday, according to Wellton Fire Department investigators.
Their names have not yet been released, but the woman was the girlfriend of one of the home's residents, according to WFD.
She was living in the home with her boyfriend and his family: his aunt Helen Rivera and his grandparents Tomas J. and Blasa Rivera, according to a family member.
Helen and the older Rivera couple survived thanks to the rescue efforts of their neighbors and a U.S. Border Patrol agent who responded to the fire, according to Tom Rivera, Tomas and Blasa's grandson, who spoke on behalf of the family.
The woman's boyfriend, who is Tom Rivera's cousin, was staying in Yuma that night receiving treatment for sleep apnea and was not home when the fire occurred. The Rivera family did not release his name to the public Thursday.
Tom Rivera said his aunt Helen suffers from cerebral palsy and his grandfather, Tomas Rivera, had had both legs amputated due to circulation problems. He said they would never have gotten out of the house without their rescuers.
"They got my grandparents and my aunt out of the fire ... They got them out but they couldn't save the other ones because the house was pretty well burning in that area," Tom Rivera said.
While fatal fires are always tragic, this one hit firefighters especially hard. The woman's boyfriend is the cousin of Mark Rivera, Wellton's fire chief.
Emergency response personnel from WFD, Wellton Police Department, Yuma Fire Department, the Yuma County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Border Patrol agents all responded to the scene but they were unable to salvage the home. Firefighters had to work well into the morning to to extinguish the flames. The last were put out around 10 a.m.
Fire personnel from WFD, YFD and arson investigators from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma investigated the scene. Wellton fire officials said the cause was still unknown but the fire originated in the home's attic.
An arson investigation is standard procedure in any fatal fire.
Local Red Cross personnel are assisting the survivors of the fire and their family.
The home was one of the oldest houses in the Wellton community. Tomas and Blasa Rivera have lived there since 1959. Before the home was built the land was the site of a service station, back when Arizona Avenue was the main route through the town.
Tom Rivera said the community rushed to help them when the fire occurred, from the life-saving efforts of neighbors to offers of clothing and support from volunteers.
"I just really want to say ... how much we appreciate how much the community did for us, as a family," he said.
To contact the family to offer aid or condolences, Tom Rivera said people can call them at (928) 246-0377.
Sarah Reynolds can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6847.