A 34-year-old mother of twins who perished in a furious fire early Wednesday died from burns and fire inhalation, according to the San Joaquin County coroner.
The victim, Jessica Angel Sotelo, was reportedly several months pregnant. She died in an early morning blaze that damaged much of the Chateau Apartments on West Turner Road and left 12 residents displaced.
On Thursday, investigators from the Lodi fire and police departments were joined by agents from the state Fire Marshal's office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in trying to find the cause of the fire.
That quest was complicated by cold and rain, and officials said the investigation will likely not be quick.
"There's a lot of debris to go through. It's going to take some time," said Lodi Fire Department Division Chief Kevin Donnelly.
Donnelly said investigators are trying to "rebuild" the apartment by determining what actually burned, where the combustible materials were and how the fire spread through the apartment.
Investigators are also trying to figure out just how long the fire was burning before it was reported, in light of the amount of flames and the length of time it took to extinguish the fire.
"At this point the cause has not been determined and nothing has been ruled out," said Donnelly.
A graduate of Lodi High, Sotelo was the only daughter of Assistant Sheriff John Drummond and his wife, Diane. Family members described Sotelo as having an adventurous spirit and being devoted to her twin daughters, Francesca and Joelle, 10. Family and friends said Sotelo was pregnant, but coroner's officials declined to confirm that, saying more information will be released today. Toxicology reports may take several days, perhaps even a month, to complete.
Yellow police tape surrounded the portion of the Chateau Apartments facing Church Street, and firefighters and police officers scrambled up and down stairs, shining flashlights and shoveling debris into wheelbarrows.
The Red Cross has helped people displaced by the fire by paying for temporary shelter at a Lodi hotel, replacing prescription medications, and distributing debit cards for food, toiletries and new clothes.
A number of tenants remained in an undamaged portion of the apartment complex; they, too, were given help by the Red Cross.
Caryn Campbell has been taking care of her friend's cat, which is so "freaked out" she has been keeping him in the bathroom.
"I'm doing much better than I was yesterday," said Campbell's mother, Norma Brock. The family has lived at the apartments for about two years.
Mylane Celebria, 41, lived two doors down from where the fire started and was burned out of her apartment. She has moved with her daughter, Alexis, in with friends in another, untouched unit at the Chateau.
Celebria works as a certified nurses' aide at Arbor Convalescent Hospital, which is a short walking distance from the apartment complex. She said her 2-year daughter has been crying and asking to go back to their own apartment.
"She's been crying a lot: 'Mommy, go! Mommy, go!' and pointing at the door," Celebria said.
She was allowed to re-enter her apartment for 10 minutes with a police escort. She could not retrieve photos or other items because they had been covered with sheets of plastic, so she settled for some food.
On Thursday afternoon, Celebria piled shopping bags in front of an artificial Christmas tree decorated with strings of red garland and colorful bulbs. The bags weren't holding Christmas gifts; they were stuffed with clothes to replace what was damaged from the smoke and fire, and water used by firefighters.
Using the debit card from the Red Cross, Celebria was also able to buy a few blankets and pillows. She and her two adult roommates have been sleeping at another unit at the Chateau Apartments rented by her co-workers.
Across town, John and Diane Drummond stayed at home nearly all day and planned funeral arrangements for their daughter - her remains will be cremated, and a memorial service is set for next Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Temple Baptist Church on Lower Sacramento Road.
Quality Property Services owner Nan Pacheco, the Chateau apartment management firm, said she is doing "anything and everything" to help those displaced by heat, water and smoke damage to their apartments.
Celebria said Quality Property Services has offered to return rental deposits or place people in apartments elsewhere around town.
Local groups like the Salvation Army, Lodi Adopt-A-Child and individuals have offered help, but no specific fund or group has taken the lead.
Jessica's brother, Jason Drummond, said his nieces' Christmas presents, clothes, toys and just about everything they owned were destroyed in the fire. Those wishing to make a donation to the twins may mail them to his address, 2628 W. Elm St., Lodi, 95242.
First published: Friday, December 22, 2006