Fire destroys 3 Harlingen homes

HARLINGEN — Eloisa Lopez looked on in horror as thick, black smoke poured out the windows of her home.

“Everything’s gone. You can tell, everything’s gone,” said Lopez, red-faced and close to tears.

Lopez, 43, was standing in a neighbor’s yard in the 600 block of Monroe Avenue yesterday afternoon as firefighters battled a fire that had engulfed three connected wood-frame houses.

Jesus Villarreal, 18, was one of the first on the scene of the fire.

He was walking down Monroe Avenue about 2:30 p.m. when he saw thick, black smoke suddenly billow into the sky.

“I just saw a lot of smoke coming up and I ran over here. When I got here, the whole house was in flames. Everything was in flames,” he said.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it.”

An hour later, smoke was still pouring out of holes in the roofs as firefighters on the ground and on a ladder truck bombarded the houses with water.

Neighbors had gathered in yards and on the street, looking on in astonishment.

Lopez and her husband, Ruben Torres, were also looking on.

“At least we’ve got our puppies and our dog,” she said.

She said firefighters rescued her four puppies and the mother, a boxer-pit pull mix, that had been in a pen at the back of the house.

She and her husband were not at home when the fire broke out. They were in Combes when they received a phone call telling them their home was on fire. Their three children were with their grandmother at the time.

They rushed home to find the house engulfed.

About an hour after the first reports of the blaze, fire departments from San Benito, Rio Hondo and La Feria had arrived to assist.

“I haven’t seen a fire like this in awhile,” said Deputy Police Chief Hector Leal as he stood on the street next to a fire engine.

Neighbors said the three houses near the end of the block had been connected some time ago to be used as rental properties.

It was unclear how many families were living in the homes.

“We have four (fire) departments on the scene.”

No injuries were immediately reported.

Leal said the fire will be investigated.