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Eight Members of Two Families Die in Trailer Fire

February 3, 1988

SILVERTON, Texas (AP) _ An immigrant family working on a Panhandle ranch was seeking amnesty and ″just trying to make it in Texas″ when their trailer home caught fire, killing eight people, said the ranch’s owners.

The seven-member Palacio family was sharing a mobile home with five relatives seeking work in the area when the blaze trapped two women and six children inside early Tuesday, officials said.

All that remained of the trailer, located on ranchland near this Panhandle town 60 miles southeast of Amarillo, was its foundation and some charred, twisted sheet metal.

Francisco Palacio, 28, and his wife’s brother, Samuel Davila Jr., 28, managed to escape from the burning structure. They broke a window to pull Samuel Davila III, 6, and Edna Davila, 4, to safety after a propane heater ignited the trailer, said Briscoe County fire chief James Edwards.

All four were to be released today from Swisher County Memorial Hospital in nearby Tulia where they were treated for cuts and smoke inhalation, said hospital officials.

Those killed were Palacio’s wife, their five children, and Davila’s wife and youngest child. The children ranged from age 5 months to 7 years and some were burned beyond recognition, said Sheriff Dick Roehr.

Teddy Hancock, who owns the 3,000-acre sheep and cattle ranch where the Palacios worked and lived, said his family was close to the Palacios, attending the same church and helping each other with chores.

″Francisco is a part of the family,″ Hancock said. ″He has as much say about things around here as I did. He hadn’t worked for me for eight years for nothing. He wouldn’t have been here if he hadn’t been a good fellow.″

Hancock’s 18-year-old daughter, Rhonda, said said she used to babysit the children.

″They were just trying to make it in Texas,″ she said, describing the family as hardworking, closeknit and religious.

Palacio and his 25-year-old wife, Odilia, were from Mexico and were in the process of becoming legalized citizens, Hancock said. Their children were citizens because they were born in this country, he said.

The Davilas had come to the area about two weeks ago to look for work, Hancock said, and had been helping out on the ranch while sharing the trailer.

Hancock said he had purchased the three-bedroom trailer last March and placed it next to his.

Firefighters said the building’s roof and walls had collapsed when they arrived at the ranch nine miles southeast of town shortly after midnight.

″By the time we arrived, there was nothing we could do but extinguish the fire and recover the bodies,″ Edwards said. ″They’re (trailer homes) really susceptible to fires. They go up real fast. They’re nothing but insulation and paneling.″

Roehr said the fire appeared accidental.

In addition to Odilia Palicio, those killed were her children, Francisco, 7; Janet, 6; Cynthia, 4; Daisy, 2, and Reynaldo, 5 months; and Patricia Davila, 25, and her daughter, Nancy, 3.

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