Neighbor of fire victim: ‘We couldn’t get back in to get him. The smoke was too much’

Hours after the thick smoke that had taken over her neighbor’s home had cleared, Gena Garza still could see the images just as clearly in her mind.

She recalled arriving home after 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and noticing that the home across the street, in the 5100 block of Grovehill, was on fire.

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Garza says she immediately called 911, then went into rescue mode.

She noticed two women struggling to get out of the burning home through the garage and ran to help them.

Then she realized there was someone else still inside.

“We heard him asking for help. We heard him twice. We tried to get in. We tried,” she said, fighting back tears. “We couldn’t get back in to get him. The fire, the smoke was too much for me and my neighbor.”

Soon, she says, her husband arrived on the scene, then also tried in vain to get past the fire.

“When my husband went in, he took his jacket off and he put it over his head to try to get in,” Garza said. “We had the water hose in there already.”

As San Antonio firefighters began to arrive, the neighborhood rescuers cleared out of their away.

Fire crews could do much to save the man until they had knocked down the fire.

They later went in and recovered the body of the 68-year-old.

His 94-year-old mother and 76-year-old sister, the two women who neighbors pulled from the garage, were taken to a hospital to be checked for possible smoke inhalation.

A relative who showed up at the home later told KSAT 12 News that the two women had been released.

Garza, though, still regrets not being able to save the man.

She says burglar bars on the door and windows slowed down the rescue efforts.

“I just wish there were a couple more minutes or a couple more seconds,” she said. “I feel like that would’ve made the utmost difference in us being able to gain more access.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although an arson investigator said the fire did not appear to be suspicious in nature.

The Bexar County Medical Examiner has not released the name of the man who was killed.