A string of unfortunate circumstances continued to add up for a Waco family earlier this week. A fire destroyed their home and sent the homeowner’s 85-year-old mother to the a Dallas hospital, where she remains in critical condition, the family said Friday.

“You know, we’ve had a lot of bad luck in the last few years, so I am just asking for a break,” Edward Calderon said. “I would give the shirt off my back to someone, anyone, if they asked. And I mean, we don’t have much, but I will take care of anyone I can.”

On Tuesday, the house near the intersection of North 17th Street and Homan Avenue where the family of six has lived for the last 19 years caught fire. Fire and heavy smoke damaged much of the front portion of the home after an electric heater used to keep neighborhood cats warm sparked the blaze, Edward Calderon’s wife, Jennifer Calderon, said.

“I just heard a popping, like an electrical popping, and I looked out and it was like a surge of energy,” Jennifer Calderon said. “I looked out the window, and flames just started flying up the wall, hit the roof of the porch and it all happened so fast.”

Heat lamp

Jennifer Calderon said she started keeping an electric heat lamp on in a wooden box on her front porch for neighborhood cats to keep warm after a recent cold spell Waco fell into. At the time of the fire, she and her husband were home, along with Edward Calderon’s mother, Dorothy Calderon, who was in a back room.

“Jennifer came beating on the door, screaming that the house was on fire. So I got up, yelled to help get my mom out and I went to get the water hose, but it was so bad I couldn’t get close,” Edward Calderon said. “The hose wasn’t doing anything, so I threw it down and tried to get my mom out. I opened the door, heard her hollering, tried to go in, but when I got about five or six feet in, the heat and smoke was so bad.”

Within minutes, fire crews arrived and helped pull Dorothy Calderon out of the house. She was taken to a local hospital, then to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where she remains in critical condition, her family said.

“Burns are mainly on her face and a little her hands,” Edward Calderon said. “Burns are on about 13 percent of her body, but I just know it could have been a lot worse.”

Edward and Jennifer Calderon’s daughter, Brandi Calderon, 18, a Waco High School senior, helped her family go through items in the home Friday. Brandi Calderon’s older brother, Brandon Calderon, 22, and his fiancee, Amber Jones, 22, were living in a converted garage apartment toward the back of the property, where firefighters were able to rescue some family pets, although several cats died.

Neither structure has working electricity, and the city tagged both as uninhabitable.

About two years ago, a stolen car hit the family’s house, significantly damaging the exterior wall and a bathroom. The family completed renovations to the bathroom late last year before Edward Calderon’s left hand was seriously injured in a workplace accident.

“My dad is now on workman’s (compensation), but it’s not going to be enough,” Brandi Calderon said. “Last night, when we were in Dallas visiting my grandma, someone broke into one of my dad’s vehicles and stole change and other stuff inside.”

Community support

Friends of the family created a GoFundMe page with a goal of $20,000. Edward Calderon said his family does not have homeowner’s insurance, and he appreciates the community support.

“We just need a break. That is all we need,” he said.

Updates about the family and donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/ambers-house-fire-relief.

“We just need to keep a positive attitude and give it everything we go, because we can’t give up. This is our empire,” Jennifer Calderon said.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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