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Five Die in Missouri House Fire

September 18, 2000

CALIFORNIA, Mo. (AP) _ Five young cousins spending the night together before a birthday party were killed in a late-night house fire that has shaken this small town’s close-knit Hispanic community.

The fire broke out in a one-story wood-frame home just before midnight Saturday, possibly sparked by faulty wiring, authorities said.

Rafael Magana, 35, his daughters, Myira, 6, and Annabel, 11, and their cousins Erica Corona, 8 months, Ana Caren Corona, 2, and Diana Corona, 6, died in the blaze.

Ana and her sister Erica were staying with the Maganas while their parents shopped for presents to celebrate Ana’s third birthday, which would have been Sunday, said Maribel Vargas, multicultural community resource translator for the city.

Magana’s brother, Miguel, escaped the fire, but because he speaks little English, he ran more than a half-mile to a cluster of homes where other Hispanics live to call for help, Vargas said.

A neighbor who lives next door had already seen the flames and dialed 911.

``It was just a horrible inferno, with that tin roof pushing down the flames,″ said Delpha Price, another neighbor. ``There was nothing anybody could do.″

Renee Dority grabbed a garden hose and tried to fight the fire until firefighters arrived. She said she heard glass popping because of the intense heat, but heard no voices.

``But I kept spraying with the hose to keep the trees in the front yard from catching fire. I just had to do something,″ Dority said. ``The bad part of it is, because of the language barrier and the cultural barrier, they didn’t feel they could come over to call for help from my house.″

On Sunday afternoon, members of the Hispanic community visited Rafael Magana’s wife, Blanca, to offer condolences. She was returning from work in Jefferson City when the fire broke out. Her son, Rafael Jr., 12, wasn’t in the house at the time.

Vargas said the fire left the victims’ three families each with one surviving son.

``I was just devastated about the loss of these little ones,″ said Mary McGinnis, a friend of the family.

Many in the Hispanic community in California, which has about 3,500 residents, worked with Rafael Magana at a turkey processing plant owned by Cargill.

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