A Basin City woman was sleeping lightly early Friday when she smelled something burning, got up and found her home on fire.
Gloria Prado, who is battling stage 3 ovarian cancer, initially thought something outside her double-wide mobile home at 1971 Fairway Road was burning, said her daughter-in-law, Veronica Vogt, who interpreted for Prado.
Prado's husband, Roberto, was in a deep sleep and she tried to wake him, but he didn't stir so she grabbed a blanket and went outside.
"Then she started screaming for her husband to get out," Vogt said.
Roberto, 64, escaped safely but the retired couple lost everything.
The fire broke out just after 2 a.m. The cause remains under investigation, but may be linked to a heat lamp that was warming some chicks near the front porch.
By the time the first Franklin Fire District 4 crews arrived, the home was nearly 70 percent engulfed in flames, said Chief Steve Cooper.
Eight firefighters and five engines from the district battled the blaze for almost an hour before getting it contained. They also focused their efforts on several cars parked in the driveway.
"We just tried to protect those from catching on fire," he told the Herald. "When you get one on fire, then it just moves to the next one. ... Automobiles are pretty hazardous."
Vogt said the Prados had a small front room added on near their porch and the chicks were in there. They think an electrical issue started the fire there because that's where the smoke was coming from when Gloria Prado first noticed it.
The couple had to use a back door that was partially blocked to get out.
Gloria Prado, who turns 69 on Sunday, was left with only the blanket and clothes she had on, and Roberto escaped with just what he was wearing.
Firefighters gave them extra blankets to help keep them warm while they watched the home they lived in for 15 years go up in flames.
"It's so heartbreaking to see these things," Cooper said. "You can't even put your feet in their shoes. Everything's gone. Everything. It's not so much the monetary things, it's family things and pictures."
Vogt said the fire crews really helped, including getting them connected with representatives at the Benton Franklin Chapter of the American Red Cross. Neighbors also stopped by to see how they could help, she said.
Vogt and Gloria Prado met Red Cross officials in the afternoon while Roberto stayed behind trying to find anything he could salvage. The home was not insured because they were told it was too old, said Roberto Prado.
The Prados are both retired from Simplot. Any extra money that Gloria Prado saved, she kept in her bedroom, Vogt said. That money is gone, but Vogt said she fortunately had their passports.
Gloria Prado has been receiving weekly chemotherapy treatments since having a tumor removed in December and has used the Tri-Cities Cancer Center for resources, including wigs, hats, scarves and other support services.
Vogt said she didn't think the full scope of the loss had hit her mother-in-law yet because she hadn't been back to the home and kept talking about how she's going to wash all the clothes.
"She doesn't realize it's all gone," Vogt said Friday afternoon. "Right now, all I know is they've lost everything. They have some place to stay, but they are starting from scratch."
An account has been opened at Banner Bank to help the family. Donations can be made in Gloria and Roberto Prado's name at any branch.
Just last week, the Red Cross was seeking more donations from the public after its budget has been decimated by numerous home fires this winter.
Since July, the agency has spent $44,314 providing emergency services to Tri-Citians burned out of their homes, said Rachel Heglar, fund development director. Their annual disaster relief budget is $35,000.
Donations can be delivered or mailed to 7202 W. Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, WA, 99336, online at www.inwredcross.org or call 783-6195.
* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; email@example.com