Neighbors, Port Arthur leaders react to tragic fire that left 2 dead

Published 11:55 am Monday, April 17, 2023

When Axel Aguirre looked out from his Griffing Drive home early Sunday morning, he saw flames coming out a front room window and heard glass breaking at a neighbor’s home.

Aguirre said his sister alerted him to the house fire across the street and she said she heard someone yell.

Raylynn Brooks, Aguirre’s girlfriend, said she was asleep when the fire occurred and didn’t hear anything.

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Aguirre and Brooks were saddened to hear two people died in that fire in the 4000 block of Griffing Drive.

Aguirre and Brooks said they’ve seen a man and woman at the house outside periodically, adding on Saturday their across-the-street neighbors had visitors over.

Michael Lloyd, who lives on nearby Forest Drive, was on his front porch early Sunday but didn’t see the fire. He did see the barricades first responders placed down the street to block the area while allowing some people go through.

“I feel for the family,” Lloyd said when hearing that two people died in the fire.

Port Arthur Councilman Thomas Kinlaw III, whose district includes the Griffing Park area, received a call about the house fire and at first it was thought that four people were in the residence at the time.

Firefighters later learned there were two occupants.

“This is so unfortunate and a tragedy,” Kinlaw said. “As a councilmember, this breaks my heart. That’s my district and I ride in my district a lot and have seen that house. We will continue to pray for the family.”

The call of the fire came in at 2:35 a.m. Sunday and when crews arrived there was heavy fire at the front and back of the house, Port Arthur Fire Chief Greg Benson said.

The victims were found inside the home.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the fire department.

Justice of the Peace Tom Gillam III ordered autopsies. On Sunday, Gillam said authorities were working to identify the two individuals.