Firefighters David Richards (left) and Joni Kelley were among emergency personnel who responded to a fatal fire Saturday in Indianapolis. / Michelle Pemberton, The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS -- A Saturday morning fire raged through a small home, killing a mother, a father and two of their children. The fate of two more critically injured children remained uncertain Saturday night.
The number of victims - and the fact that all were members of the same family - has even seasoned firefighters stunned at what they're calling the most devastating Indianapolis house fire in recent memory, and perhaps in the history of the Indianapolis Fire Department.
"I don't know that any of us can remember one that was any worse," said Capt. Rita Reith, who's been with the department for 20 years. "If you think about it, this could take out a whole family if these other kids don't make it. I mean, I don't even want to think about it. It's like, 'Oh my gosh. How could this be?' "
Killed in the fire were Lionel "Leo" Guerra, 47; Brandy Mae Guerra, 33; Esteban Guerra, 11; and Blanquita Guerra, 8. A 14-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy remained in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children as of late Saturday.
The first 911 call came in around 9 a.m. after a motorist spotted the fire from Interstate 70. About 40 firefighters and medics arrived minutes later. They found the victims inside the burning home and brought them outside. They started CPR.
All four children were rushed to Riley Hospital for Children, with one in respiratory arrest. Two of them died there.
The parents were taken to Eskenazi Hospital, where they died.
While no cause of the fire has been released, Reith said it's not believed to have been intentionally set.
She also said investigators did not find a working smoke detector in the home.
The house appears to have been converted from a detached garage behind another home. It sits in the shadow of a freeway overpass and is across the street from railroad tracks. A blue toy car, just big enough for a small child to sit in, sat Saturday evening in a muddy yard that had been roped off with yellow tape by emergency personnel.
Reith said several grieving family members were at the home Saturday morning, and they also have been at the hospital with the two surviving children.
Reith also said many neighbors came by the home while firefighters were there. Some cried, she said. Others offered prayers.
In this neighborhood of modest bungalow-style homes near an industrial park, the Guerras' neighbors told The Star that the family is well-known and that several relatives live within walking distance.
Neighbor Mike Moreno said his family has known them for years. He described Leo Guerra as a car lover who used to build low-riders at a nearby body shop the family used to own.
Moreno said the Guerra kids often played with the other children in the neighborhood. The boys would toss footballs in a nearby paved lot as the girls played tag.
Moreno's 9-year-old daughter, Brianna, said she liked to play hide-and-go-seek with 8-year-old Blanquita.
Moreno, a husky man with a large goatee and a tattoo of a heart on his neck, appeared to struggle to find the words to describe something so terrible happening to a family whose house he can see out his back door.
"I got two kids myself, you know?" he said. "It's tragic enough with the adults. But with the kids? That makes it even worse."
Reith said even emergency responders were similarly shaken by the tragedy, which is why IFD has made a team available to help their peers cope.
"Everyone," she said, "is trying to process what has happened this morning."
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Read the original story: 2 adults, 2 children die in Indianapolis fire