Community steps up to help after under-construction apartment fire destroys family home in Visalia

Local News

VISALIA, Calif. (KGPE) – The community is rallying around a family who lost their home in a fire this weekend in Visalia.

The fire started late Saturday night at an under-construction apartment building on East Houston Avenue. Massive flames lit up the night sky as the remaining wooden beams fell at the building.

While no one lived in the apartments just yet, an ember from the fire cost another family their home a block away.

“She looked out the window and said, ‘fire!’ She said, ‘there’s fire run out, don’t stay run out,'” recalled Veunfow Saepharm.

Next door, with just the clothes on their backs, Vuenfow and Nai Seapharm got out just in time, but the fire left major damage to their home and gardening business

“We don’t have nothing, very cold, we had no shoes, no sandal no nothing,” said Nai.

The fire was so enormous, an ember flew a block away and landed on John Moreno’s home, where he was sound asleep until he woke up choking on smoke and heard firefighters yelling get out.

“It was horrible, within 30 seconds of me walking out the ceiling collapsed,” explained Moreno.

Moreno and his late father built the family home 30 years ago.

“I just thank god I was able to salvage what I can,” Moreno said.

Inside the home, every room is covered in debris following the fire.

“Because of God and his protection we were able to get out,” Moreno explained.

Moreno is a pastor in the Tule River Indian Reservation. He believes God saved his life the night of the fire.

“And that’s why I’m out here, to have time with my family, and to have a second chance,” said Moreno.

Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from neighbors and strangers, he also thanks firefighters for saving a special bible his sister, now passed, gave to him when he was 14 years old.

“May have a little ash on it but other than that,” Moreno said.

Despite his losses and some bruises from falling during his escape, he’s taking away this message from his hardship.

“Love your family and be grateful for what you have today because tomorrow you just don’t know,” Moreno said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

In the meantime, a GoFundMe has been set up to help the Moreno family.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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