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Farm Worker’s Family Die in Blaze

December 15, 1998

DOVER, Fla. (AP) _ Felipez Avelino left his three young daughters sleeping while his wife saw him off to work in the strawberry fields. Hours later, his wife and little girls were killed as fire swept through their tiny house.

Firefighters and neighbors pulled the bodies of 21-year-old Maria Avelino and daughters Fabiola, 5, Alisia, 3, and 1-year-old Jessica from their smoke-filled bedroom Monday.

Another woman and a visiting 4-year-old boy escaped without injury.

Investigators had not determined the cause of the fire Tuesday. There were no Christmas light or a space heater burning in the house; Avelino, 28, said he couldn’t afford them.

Avelino, who is from Guerrero, Mexico, said through an interpreter that he wants to send his family home to be buried, but is unsure how he’ll afford that.

``They were good neighbors,″ said neighbor Pat Velez. ``They loved them kids. You’d hear them laughing.″

After the flames were spotted, neighbor Eddie Kline broke a window but the heat prevented him from entering the house. He and others then rammed the back door.

``The smoke was too thick. We all started coughing,″ Velez said.

Firefighter Sean Kaden broke a bedroom window with an ax and crawled inside, then had to blindly grope through the smoke to find the victims.

``I couldn’t see anything,″ he said.

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