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Mother, daughter killed in Galt fire

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Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 10:00 pm

A young Stockton mother and her 2-year-old daughter perished early Tuesday morning in a warehouse blaze just outside Galt, leaving family and friends stricken with grief and raising questions about why people were sleeping inside the storage structure.

Maria Hernandez Jimenez

Family members identified the victims as 19-year-old Maria Hernandez Jimenez and her daughter, Jacquelyn. They said the two were trapped inside as flames engulfed the metal-walled structure and many artificial flowers stored inside.

The blaze took place in the 1000 block of South Lincoln Way just west of a tan single-story home.

Jacquelyn Hernandez Jimenez

"I think (it was) too much smoke and she fell down with the baby," said Irma Gonzalez, the child's paternal grandmother, as more than a dozen friends and family members huddled together on the dirt lot just east of the charred building.

The fire was first reported at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The smell of still-smoldering plastic and a slight haze filled the air at the site. Fire trucks, media vans and the cars of family and friends crowded the rural corridor for much of the morning.

Investigators had not determined the cause of the blaze late Tuesday afternoon. They noted there was no smoke detector inside the warehouse.

Fire crews arrived on scene within five minutes of the first call, said Peter Sakaris, battalion chief for Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Department.

They were told two people were trapped inside. By then, flames had consumed the building and rescuers could not enter, Sakaris said.

The burned warehouse, which stored artificial flowers sold at flea markets. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

Officials said there may have been a delay in reporting the fire.

Five people escaped the blaze, two with burns to their arms and faces. Those two were sent to UC Davis Medical Center. A third person suffered smoke inhalation but refused medical treatment, according to a fire spokesman.

All of the escapees were workers employed by the deceased 19-year-old's father, Jesse Hernandez, the father said at the scene.

Visibly distraught, Hernandez said he ran his business from the warehouse, where workers would typically sleep inside Monday through Wednesday nights to prepare the flowers for sale at the Galt Market.

Jenny Hernandez, 5, left, consoles her mother Veronica Hernandez, 22, while Veronica grieves for her sister, Maria Hernandez Jiminez, and Hernandez Jiminez's daughter Jacquelyn, 2, who died in a warehouse fire in Galt early Tuesday morning. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

"People would sleep for three days here," he said.

Firefighters could see a makeshift sleeping area in the building, Sakaris said.

And while CCSD spokesman Bill Capps described the warehouse as "not suitable for residential use," he said it was too early to decide whether the department will pursue any criminal charges.

"I'm not saying we're not going to look into that," Capps added.

The warehouse belongs to the homeowners at the site. A woman who said she lives at the home, just south of the St. Christopher Parish, declined to speak about the fire. She would not say whether she knew people had been sleeping inside the warehouse.

John Hallimore, a principal building inspector with Sacramento County, said the county relies on residents to call if they notice people living in such a structure.

Jesse Hernandez looks away after talking about his daughter, Maria Hernandez Jiminez and granddaughter Jacquelyn, 2, who died in a warehouse fire in Galt. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

It doesn't inspect buildings unless those complaints are made, he said.

He added that residents can call a county complaint line at (916) 875-5656 to report everything from illegal dwellings to parking and animal problems.

From what he'd learned of the building, Hallimore said it did not meet any residential living standards.

"Obviously, they shouldn't have been living there," he said.

Family mourns loss of loved ones

Family members mourned the loss of 19-year-old Maria Hernandez Jimenez on Tuesday, describing her as a loving, protective mother.

The young Stockton woman and her 2-year-old daughter, Jacquelyn, were killed in a warehouse fire early Tuesday morning near Galt.

"She's a good person and happy," said Irma Gonzalez, Jacquelyn's grandmother. "She helped me too much."

Maria loved movies and gangster rap music, her older sister, Veronica Hernandez said.

The sisters moved to California from Mexico City more than a decade ago.

They each became mothers. They each helped their father, Jesse Hernandez, with his flower arrangement business, run out of the warehouse.

The family was close-knit, doing almost everything together, said Lisa Arroyo, a San Joaquin County social worker at the scene Tuesday morning. Arroyo noted she was there to provide assistance for Veronica Hernandez, who lives in Stockton.

The sisters' own mother died when the Hernandez girls were young, Arroyo said.

More than a dozen family members and friends gathered at the site of the fire Tuesday, many embracing and sobbing, others speaking to family on cell phones. Some, like sister Veronica, sat quietly on her father's trailer, staring off in the distance.

"It hurts," she said.

- News-Sentinel staff

Fundraiser planned for Wednesday

Family members of the fire victims plan to hold a car wash fundraiser in Stockton on Wednesday.

The car wash will be held at 7424 Lorraine Avenue at Hammer Lane from 8 a.m. to about 7 p.m.

The family said it does not have money to cover funeral expenses.

- News-Sentinel staff

Contact reporter Chris Nichols at chrisn@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 4:53 am on Thu, Sep 18, 2008.


    Well T&C you already have ignored the facts. She was not "living" in this facility. She stayed there to cut down on her commute to the flea market 2 nights a week so she could be to work early. I'm not saying it was a good idea but you are going to see things the way your blocked mind wants to no matter what the facts are. Yes, people should have sympathy. A mother trying to make money for her family and her child are now dead. If that doesn't evoke sympathy you are obviously cold hearted and dead inside.

  • posted at 8:00 pm on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    I grew up in Galt and know how it works with people that sell at the flea market, but come on people! Taking a two year old to sleep in a storage facility? I respect those people that work so hard to make a living, but where do we draw the line? The child involved should never have been there, that is the simple truth. And as for the people that live in the area surrounding the storage facility....shame on you for not calling this in long ago! As I said, I grew up there and locals know when something is off in their neighborhood. Although this may have been the life blood for the family, was the money really worth the death of a young mother and her child? I dont think so. No matter how bad things are we should always keep in mind that we are free here and there are always choices. I could say the same when it comes to carnivals coming to town. Children that travel with their parents to "entertain" the rest of us suffer horribly and no-one ever seems to step up to make a stand for them.

  • posted at 12:31 pm on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    Well, LodiReaderFromStockton...One day all the FACTS one way or the other will be revealed! Would you take your family to that warehouse and live there with many others, just for the heck of it?

  • posted at 12:29 pm on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    The article stated..."CCSD spokesman Bill Capps described the warehouse as "not suitable for residential use"! More often then not and we ALL know it is true "illegals are found in sub standard "shelters, which ordinary people would never live in. Case in point, a warehouse that was NOT suitible as a residence! Illegal or not A Thorough INVESTIGATION needs to be conducted from ALL Angles! Or does someone in this forum feel we should look the other way and show sympathy?

  • posted at 9:49 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    I seem to have missed the part where it says this young lady was illegal. Just racist people assuming as always.

  • posted at 7:49 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    T & C: the only reason they tell you to shut up (and quite rudely) is because the truth hurts! The system is broken. And illegal immigration will always be an issue as long as there are sympathizers.

  • posted at 5:19 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    Good morning Shelby! People who have neighbors who are sleeping in sheds, garages, warehouses, cars or tents don't realize that a fire could start, and that lives could be lost! Illegals take the easiest path to "Get by" and hardly complain about hardships! They are just glad to live in America, NOT Mexico! Reporting someone suspected of being illegal, CAN save a life, "Their Live"...and those near-by who may be in danger of the fire spreading! No one likes to see a life lost so needlessly! Get involved friends! Do the right thing and report possible illegals situations. We call police on suspicious vehicles, suspicious persons, why not illegals too? http://www.americanpatrol.com/ADMINISTRATION/NAVIGATION/Report-Illegals.htmlhttp://immigrationcounters.com/http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-02-11-population-study_N.htm

  • posted at 5:13 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    reality1 wrote on Sep 17, 2008 9:09 AM:"Not trying to start a debate here just thinking a little thoughtfulness at a time like this might be in order"!The very first part of my post was: "" I am saddened by the loss of life and injuries to those who survived"!

  • posted at 5:11 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    Pay attention to the article folks! "A young Stockton mother and her 2-year-old daughter perished early Tuesday morning in a warehouse blaze just outside Galt, leaving family and friends stricken with grief and raising questions about why people were sleeping inside the storage structure"!Questions NEED to be answered so you can "ZIP IT!"

  • posted at 4:35 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    That's it! Shut down the Flea Market!

  • posted at 4:33 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    Premature loss of life under any circumstances is always a sad thing. I am watching this story closely to see WHO sues WHOM. It is coming, no doubt about it because anytime there is a possibility of someone collecting money you can bet they will at least try. CLOSE THE BORDERS NOW WHILE WE STILL HAVE SOME HOPE OF SALVAGING OUR AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.

  • posted at 4:09 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    If Mr Hernandez & his family lived here for 10 years, why are thay not legal, And he is to blame, come on people, yes i feel for the family and the loss could of been prevented, i bet the people who live by them, surly knew people lived and sleeped in the building. Start turning in people like them and maybe just maybe a live will be saved. i think it's time to cross the border again.

  • posted at 4:09 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    Liberal or not. Illegal or not. Lives have been lost. Never condemn another until you have had to live their life. Yes things in a perfect world would all be done correctly but T&C I don't imagine you are quite as clean as you would like others to think. Not trying to start a debate here just thinking a little thoughtfulness at a time like this might be in order. Sorry for the loos of the loved ones for the families concerned.

  • posted at 4:06 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    I agree with T&C. Just because he's Mexican does not release him from liability in this case. Does anyone remember what happened to the employer of the 17 year old pregnant farmworker who died in the fields? Why should this be any different??

  • posted at 3:48 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    mini, I agree.T & C, zip it.

  • posted at 3:37 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    shut up! for a long while.

  • posted at 2:57 am on Wed, Sep 17, 2008.


    I am saddened by the loss of life and injuries to those who survived, but key questions remain unanswered! For example, "What the H$LL " does "Moved from Mexico mean? Don't people "Immigrate"? So the question of "Immigration status is relevant to everyone connected to this story! Mr. Hernandez bears much of this blame as he "ALLOWED "Workers" to sleep there! Since when is a 2 year old deemed a worker? Because Mr. Hernandez brought about the loss of life, I feel involuntary manslaughter charges should be considered! Plus... I would "Audit" his business as well since many businesses that employ people under "These suspicious circumstances"...work under the table, and don't report taxes, or severely under-report them! These people "ILLEGAL or ILLEGAL" deserved better housing then what Mr. Hernandez so graciously provided them! Oh for all the "LIBERALS" in this blog about to comment on the RACIAL ISSUE", they will try to allege, Just because someone is illegally here 10 years, does not make them a LEGAL so called "IMMIGRANT".



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