“We’ll remember Labor Day for a long time,” said Navor Sanchez. That was the day years of hard work to provide for his family went up in flames.

Sanchez came to the United States almost 19 years ago. He became a naturalized citizen, married Elena Alvarado from Bridge City and they had three children.

Five or six years ago, they bought a house on Farm Road 105. He had just completed a living room add-on to the home. “It was beautiful,” he said. “Fresh.”

They were living the American Dream.

Labor Day, it became a nightmare.

Christina, 16, and her 11 year old brother, Jose, were in the living room watching TV after finishing homework.

Elena, was in the bathroom, giving 4-year-old Navor a bubble bath.

The elder Navor was outside, washing a motorcycle.

Jose noticed a little smoke coming from the utility room and opened the door to see what it was. “I thought it was something daddy was doing,” he said.

Flames jumped out when he opened the door. “I slammed the door, screamed and ran outside,” said Jose. He ran straight to the mailbox at the road – the family’s predesignated gathering spot in case of an emergency.

“He was the only one that got there,” said Elena.

Elena grabbed a towel, wrapped the 4-year-old in it, grabbed a phone and ran outside.

She said Christina was running around the outside of the house.
Mr. Sanchez took the water hose and tried to put out the fire, but it was too far gone.

They don’t know how long it took the fire department to get there. “It felt like a week,” said Mr. Sanchez.

They escaped with the clothes on their back and her husband’s work truck. Little Navor didn’t even have that. “I borrowed a pull up from my sister and put him in a long T-shirt,” said Elena. “I’m just thankful it wasn’t later when it happened.” She knows the outcome could have been worse if the fire had started after they had gone to sleep.

Her vehicle was also a total loss, because her keys were inside her purse, inside the house and they were unable to move it. Navor tried to get inside the house to retrieve it, but the fire was too hot, making it impossible. 

Determined to be an electrical fire, started by a dryer, the flames quickly consumed the house, which is probably a total loss. They had insurance, but it falls far short of covering all the expenses to rebuild their lives.

The family was lucky during both Hurricanes Ike and Rita, sustaining only minimal damage, but the fire has thrown them in the same circumstances as the rest of Orange County, that of rebuilding. “We’re gonna pull through,” said Elena. “We’ve gotta leave it to God.”

The next day, the children were not able to go to school and Navor couldn’t go to work, because they had nothing to wear. The 4-year-old was traumatized by the event, not returning to school for the entire week. It took his teachers coming to talk with him to convince him everything would be all right. He was also relieved to find out that his school folder did not burn in the fire, because it was at school.

Friend, mentor and now “angel,” Leah Johansson, of Bridge City got busy seeing what she could do to help the family, contacting charitable organizations for help. She also bought a suit of clothes for each family member out of her own pocket.

“I’ve known them for years,” she said.

Johansson helped Navor and other members of his family with studies to earn citizenship. She was one of Elena’s teachers at Bridge City High School. The Sanchezes also looked after Johansson’s parents during their last years.

“They need help,” said Johansson.

The family is staying with Elena’s mom until future plans are figured out. Friday was the first day the children returned to the home to see the destruction in daylight. 

“It doesn’t look like it went through the roof,” said Navor, but the support beams have sustained major damage and may not be salvageable. Looking through the house to see if anything can be saved, he emerged with a large trash bag only filled to about a fourth of its capacity. He also held a pair of smoke and soot covered blue jeans.

The family has received some assistance from local organizations and individuals, but more help is needed. 

If you would like to help the Sanchez family, monetary donations can be submitted to Firestone Credit Union, account no. 399604.

Their greatest need at the moment is work pants and work boots for Navor, size 32 waist, size 10 boots. Jose still needs shorts, size 14-16. Elena only has sandals and could use another pair of shoes, size 9. “Anything really will help,” said Elena.

The family wants to thank everyone that has assisted them. “We really appreciate the help, there really are no words to express how grateful we are,” said Elena.

“Everybody has been really, really nice,” chimed in Christina.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.