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Silence just won’t do in face of two tragedies


Searches for answers in two deadly fire cases — a July conflagration that claimed the lives of three children, and one that claimed a father’s life and left his son critically injured a month ago — remain incomplete but not for lack of effort.

Port Arthur’s fire investigators await lab results in the first case, which occurred July 4 at Arthur Square Apartments on Poole Street. There, in a second-floor apartment, three children — 12, 6 and 2 — perished in an early morning fire of undetermined origin. The mother told investigators she took three of her children to a local hospital for treatment of one child; the fire broke out while she was gone.

That fire also left nearby residents out of a home, as fire and smoke damage made nearby apartments uninhabitable. The aftermath of the July 4 fire was heartbreaking, as neighbors and family lamented the tragic loss of three lost lives and emergency agencies sought to place the suddenly homeless family and neighbors into temporary quarters, with a daylong downpour accenting the scene’s misery.

Fire Marshal Paul Marshburn said that two months later, the investigation remains open for Port Arthur’s worst fire — for loss of life — in almost a decade.

On Trinity Avenue, firefighters responded Aug. 3 for another fire that erupted in a garage at the home around 2 p.m. When they arrived, father Francisco Zepeda, 60, and son Daniel, 28, were suffering from widespread and life-threatening burns. The elder Zepeda’s burns proved fatal; investigators are waiting for an opportunity to speak with the younger Zepeda, who continues to deal with his injuries while trying to recover, before they can conclude their investigation.

Answers are needed in both cases, both for the benefits of survivors and, perhaps, to keep such tragedies from reoccurring. In the case of the Arthur Square Apartments, questions have been raised about the safety of the apartments, and the mother, according to another media outlet, has filed legal action. So a factual determination of the events is important to all concerned.

Port Arthur residents ought to follow these fires and their investigations closely. At the Arthur Square Apartments, managers were curiously silent on the day of the fire, even declining to help the Red Cross, which, in the day’s downpour, was seeking only to provide aid to those who had been driven from their apartments. That has never been fully explained.

But silence in the wake of tragedy won’t do. Firefighters, neighbors, social service agencies, family and friends saw the chilling aftermath of a raging fire, saw the charred remains of what had been a home. No one should accept silence.

For the sake of the dead, the living should press on for firm answers.