SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — An 11-year-old girl began screaming and pounding on walls in her grandmother’s San Jose home early Thursday, alerting her family to a fire that was spreading from the house’s living room, allowing them to escape the deadly smoke and flames unharmed.
San Jose fire officials called Berlin Gomez-Muniz a hero in the fire that was first reported at 6:43 a.m. and left the family’s home in the 800 block of 19th St. heavily damaged and uninhabitable.
According to firefighters, the young girl got up early to get ready for school and noticed the smoke coming into her bedroom from the living room. She began yelling out to her sister, parents and grandmother, waking them up, allowing them to get out safely.
“I had set my alarm for 5:30 a.m.,” Gomez-Muniz told KPIX 5. “When I was going to start to get ready [for school], I saw black smoke. I immediately started yelling and screaming my dad’s name until they woke up. My sister also woke up.”
She said she was screaming at the top of her voice and pounding on the walls of her room to make sure her family heard her.
“My throat was hurting so much after it, but I had to scream out my dad’s name,” Gomez Muniz said. “I was just screaming ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ My dad opened the door right away and he got us out safely.”
The entire family – the girls, their mother and father and grandmother – all escaped through the back door.
Berlin grabbed a robe on her way out, but not much else.
Her 14-year-old sister, Lyric, also now thinks of her younger sister as a hero.
“I’m very proud of her,” she told KPIX 5. “She saved all of us. Something worse could have happened if she didn’t say something.”
Grandmother Leslie Muniz said her granddaughter saved all their lives.
“I don’t think we would’ve made it out, if Berlin had not woken everybody up. She’s our 11-year-old hero,” said Muniz.
Unfortunately, firefighters said the family cat died in the fire.
Officials said there was no working smoke alarm in the home. While the blaze remained under investigation, the fire did start near the family’s Christmas tree.
The fire destroyed nearly everything in the home. The family spent the day salvaging what they could, but there wasn’t much left. The house is a total loss.
Six days before Christmas, the Gomez-Muniz family has lost a lot, but not everything.
“The fact that everybody got out safely and everything, I thank God for that. And I know He’s watching over us,” said Leslie Muniz.
The family has started an online fundraiser to help them buy clothes and other daily necessities.