Firefighter's Wife and Three Children Die in House Fire While He Battles Blaze Out of Town

The wife and three children of a firefighter in Washington have died in a house blaze in Benton City while he was fighting a wildfire out of town, miles away from their home.

The home, located on the Green Acres mobile home park on Babs Avenue, was reported to be in flames when fire crew arrived at the scene following a call just before 1 a.m. local time Thursday,.

Meanwhile, firefighter Raul Garcia was in Okanogan County battling the Palmer Fire, unaware of the incident at his home.

The bodies of 32-year-old Macaria Martinez-Garcia, 17-year-old Luz Garcia-Martinez, 15-year-old Luis Garcia-Martinez and six-year-old Michelle Garcia-Martinez were discovered by fire crew after they extinguished the blaze.

All four family members died from smoke inhalation, the Benton County coroner confirmed.

The family was reported by neighbors to have moved into the home on Wednesday.

A friend of the family, Santos Martinez, set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of the firefighter to help meet funeral costs.

"A family of 4 passed in a house fire. They have no family here in the state of Washington, just close friends. I'd appreciate any help that we could get," noted the GoFundMe page, which has since raised at least $20,840.

The National Wildfire Suppression Association (NWSA) made a Facebook post saying: "Raul lost his wife and three children in a structural fire day before yesterday and he was on this fire during the time working for Franco's Contracting crew."

"We send prayers to him in his time of loss, they are a member of the NWSA and we are so sorry for their loss," the NWSA added.

We send prayers to him in his time of loss they are a member of the NWSA and we are so sorry for their loss...For...

Posted by National Wildfire Suppression Association on Saturday, August 29, 2020

The latest tragedy comes as firefighters are "stretched totally thin," across California where more than 900 wildfires have burned over 1.48 million acres of land since August 15, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

With Cal Fire's total number of inmate crews (who help contain fires) has nearly halved due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, firefighters were reported to be doing shifts of up to 40 hours, nearly double the usual 24-hour shift rotation, Tim Edwards, the president of Cal Fire Local 2881 (Cal Fire's firefighters union), told Newsweek last month.

These staff shortages have been exacerbated by the recent early release of thousands of inmates due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of who had been trained under the state's Conservation Camp Program, which helps government agencies respond to emergencies such as fires and other disasters.

firefighters in Seattle Washington July 2020
Firefighters arrive as a structure on the site of the King County Juvenile Detention Center is engulfed in flames in Seattle, Washington on July 25, 2020. Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images