Conroe community comes together to help family after two kids and grandmother killed in fire

CONROE, Texas (KTRK) -- The fire was devastating. A great-grandmother, Raquel Figueroa, and two children, 6-year-old Marco Zarate and 18-month-old Vanessa Zarate, all died in the smoke and flames.

The children's mother, Amanda, is in the hospital with severe injuries. She has four other children, two of whom escaped the flames with the help of a neighbor.

We've learned the fire started in the kitchen at the stove and spread quickly to the adjacent living room.

"Once that fire started and got very large in that living room, it blocked their escape route," said Montgomery Co. Fire Marshal Jimmy Williams.

It left the surviving members of the family, including two children, father Marco, and their injured mother, with almost nothing.

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That is where Erica Gullberg, Chelsea Green, and the San Jacinto Elementary PTO enter the story.

"My heart was just broken," said Gullberg, the PTO President. "This family lost everything. Their whole home was lost. And right now I don't know about funeral expenses or anything like that, but they will be needing money to start all over. "

They are hosting a benefit on Saturday at the Zarate's neighborhood park. They couldn't sit by and do nothing.

"They lost their home. They lost all of their belongings. Not to mention the three family members that's passed away," said Green, the PTO Vice President.

The investigation into the fire is still in its early stages, but they do know that nobody reported hearing a smoke alarm.

"It's very likely the power was knocked out to those smoke alarms before they had a chance to warn the family," said Williams.

That's because the home is like so many built in the 90's and first part of the 2000's. They have smoke detectors that run off the home's power. If that's compromised, there's no alarm.

Williams said every homeowner should check to make sure their smoke detectors are properly placed and have battery backups.

"You should have a smoke detector in every bedroom and the hallways that serve those bedrooms," Williams said.

If you don't, he said replace them with ones that do. A smoke detector should always be replaced every 10 years regardless.

"As you examine your interconnected smoke detectors, if there's no battery backup, that tells you the detector is at least 15 years old, probably more. It's time for it to be replaced," he added.

The community is hosting a benefit for the family on Saturday. It's at the Summerset Estates Park in Conroe from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To learn what they need in donations or to help, you can call (281) 761-9260 or email

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