Army Veteran Dies in Space Heater Fire

Local News

SAN JUAN, Texas – Two people are dead following two different house fires that broke out overnight in Hidalgo County. Fire officials say one of the men who died was just trying to keep warm.

A U.S. Army Veteran was one who died in one of those fires. The fire occurred in San Juan and the city’s fire chief says that a space heater was too close to a gas and exploded.

“I was trying to get him some electricity because he didn’t have any electricity in his house. He didn’t have any money coming in, no income, he couldn’t work he was disable.”

Richard Peña, Commander for America’s Last Patrol says he would take 55-year-old Ralph Briskey to his doctor’s appointments but woke up to the devastating news that Briskey died overnight. That fire broke out in San Juan on Tuesday around 11:00 p.m. on the 100 block of west 10th Street. Two and a half hours later, another fire started in Pharr claiming the life of another man. The victim’s family member, who did not wish to be identified says her 84-year-old mother-in-law was heard yelling for help at approximately 1:30 a.m. because her house was on fire and she needed help getting her son out.

Chief Leonardo Perez, City of Pharr Fire Department, “We found one room fully engulfed in the residence.”

In that room was the elderly woman’s son who we’re told suffered brain paralysis for years. The victim’s name has not been released but he was pronounced dead at scene. The elderly woman was transported to a San Antonio hospital with burns on her back. Investigators haven’t released the cause of this fire yet.

A family member says she believes a heater started the fire. Fire officials now advising residents to take extra precautions during this cold weather.

Chief Perez says, “Some of the things you have to watch for with space heaters or heaters is making sure there is no clothing, curtains, papers around the heaters. Another thing is to keep it a safe distance from furniture because it can dry out the wood and it could catch fire.”

A third fire also broke out in Alamo at around 1:00 a.m. That fire was also caused by a space heater. No deaths were reported in that incident. Fire officials also recommend not setting the temperature too high on those heaters to prevent these type of fatalities.

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