Hmoob tsev kub nhyiab-tuag 3 tug.
- From: "fajkhaum" <fajkhaum@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 22 Mar 2006 13:28:47 -0800
Tom qab nyeem tas tsab news no, cas yuav hlub tsev neeg ntawd ua luaj.
Fresno County Fire District firefighter Ray Martinez, right, tosses out
a smoldering piece of insulation Monday as fire Capt. Gary Mosely looks
beneath the floor for more while searching for any remaining hot spots
in a mobile home on the outskirts of Clovis.
Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee
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Three die in trailer blaze
Parents rescue children they can as fire destroys their home on
outskirts of Clovis.
By Diana Marcum / The Fresno Bee
(Updated Tuesday, March 21, 2006, 6:10 AM)
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An account to help the Yang family is set up at Bank of the West under
Yang Memorial Fund.
Details: Paula Yang at (559) 217-4977 In less than seven minutes, a
deadly fire turned a mobile home into a twisted black heap, killing two
teenage sisters and their uncle, a Fresno State senior described as a
shining star to a humble Hmong family who were closing in on their
dream of a better life.
Twelve people lived in the two-bedroom trailer that burned Sunday night
on the outskirts of Clovis. Chong Yang, 38, his wife, Doua Vang, 37,
their nine children and Chong's younger brother Shee Yang, 22, lived
where town turned to country, on land where they farmed cherry tomatoes
and other vegetables.
Shee Yang died in the fire, along with Ai Yang, 15, and Pakou Yang, 13.
Surviving are Chong, Doua, and seven of their children. Shoua, 14;
Kayoua, 12; Macy, 11; Christy, 10; Aaron, 7; and Alyssa, 3, are staying
with relatives. Five-year-old Kyle is at University Medical Center with
burns on his neck, arms and the lower part of his face.
His mother said Kyle was breathing on his own.
Chong Yang said he thought the small farm they rented a year ago was
the beginning of his life. He and his wife and children could work
together for more income than he had made working at a factory in
Merced. His children would go to good schools.
The trailer on Locan Avenue north of Bullard Avenue was cramped and in
poor condition, but they planned to look for a better place to live
during the children's upcoming school vacation.
Sunday evening, Shee was late for dinner, so the family saved him his
portion of chicken and stir-fried greens. The electrical plugs weren't
working, so there was no television for the children to watch. Instead,
when Shee came home, they gathered around while he ate his dinner and
everyone talked about their future.
"We talked about the new home we would find, and uncle said he would
continue on in school and that someday he would buy a big house where
we all could live," Doua said, with a relative translating. "The kids
were very happy. They were dividing up rooms, deciding who would sleep
where that night. They decided the younger ones in one room, the older
in another, and it continued on like that happily."
Chong and Doua and the seven youngest children went to sleep in the
About 10 p.m., Chong said, he heard a loud explosion, and the trailer
filled with smoke.
He broke a window with his hand and started throwing his children out
"There was a shock that went through the walls, but I was only thinking
about trying to get my kids out of there," he said, through a relative.
All of the children speak English. Chong and Doua know some English but
are more comfortable speaking Hmong.
Family members embrace Monday at the site of a fire that claimed three
members of the Yang family at their mobile home late Sunday.
Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee
Doua fell down from breathing smoke, and 14-year-old Shoua took her
place handing children to Chong.
"I couldn't breathe, but I went to the bathroom and put cold water on
my face, and I grabbed my little brother who fell back," she said.
Once he got everyone in the master bedroom out of the trailer, Chong
ran to the back bedroom window, trying to break it with his fists from
"My thinking stopped. I was not able to think to get my ladder. I was
screaming, screaming their names," he said.
A Clovis fire engine arrived seven minutes after the first call, and a
Fresno County fire engine a minute later, but the three victims had
already died and the trailer was fully engulfed.
Fire inspector Gordon Winningham said the fire was accidental, hot and
Chong said he worries he failed his family because he didn't get the
ladder and because he went to sleep that night without making his usual
nightly round, checking on each child and everything in his home.
But Michael Bowman, a spokesman for Fresno County Fire Department, said
Chong's actions were heroic.
"He's going through grief I wouldn't wish on anyone. But it's
incredible that he got up in all that smoke and saved nine people's
lives. It's a tragedy and a miracle in the same breath," he said.
Doua said she worries people will think she let him and her other
"Maybe people will say, how come we have so many kids living in one
room? Maybe they think we don't love our kids because we don't provide
the right housing," she said, breaking down.
"But it's not true. We do the best we can for our children. We love
them very much."
She said that ever since Ai was in preschool, her teachers called her a
gifted student. Her father said Ai was always the first to ask what
chores needed to be done on the farm. When he sometimes got angry, Ai
was the one who would say "Dad, don't get mad," and he would always
listen to her.
"She wanted to go beyond. We had high hopes and dreams for her, and she
never let us down," he said.
Pakou, 13, a quiet girl, was also a good student. She often cleaned and
cooked for the family.
"I remember saying to her, 'Gosh, honey, you're not even 14, and you do
all this like it's second nature. It's too much responsibility,'" said
the children's aunt, Need Moua-Yang. "But she never complained. None of
those kids were ever in a bad mood for even a second."
Shee planned to go on for a master's degree after finishing his
four-year degree this May. Family members said he was tall and
strikingly good-looking. He was the youngest son of Chongtou Yang, 68,
one of the few Hmong men to get an advanced education degree in Laos.
Shee often made up scary stories for his nephews and nieces who
gathered around to listen.
"They were about meeting women and monsters and all sorts of things.
They were true stories," said Macy.
"Shee was the shining light," said Moua-Yang.
"His father keeps saying how he was looking forward to going to his
college graduation. He helped the children with their homework."
Paula Yang, a cousin to the family, is trying to organize help for
"They were such a humble but happy family. They didn't have a lot of
money, but they worked hard. The children are good students, especially
the sisters who died. They looked forward to moving up," she said.
"Right now they've lost everything. They only have their little bodies
and what clothes are on their back.
"The farm is burned. The cars are burned. I asked them how much money
they had, and it's nothing. Every piece of paper is burned. Where do
they even start?"
The reporter can be reached at dmarcum@xxxxxxxxxxxxx or (559) 441-6375.
Fresno County Fire District firefighter Collin Tally looks up from
inside a hole in the flooring Monday while searching for any remaining
hot spots after fire destroyed a mobile home, killing three of its
occupants late Sunday evening.
The Fresno Bee
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