"Hero" Mom Saves Kids In Fatal Fire
by Breanna Fuss, Reporter
April 03, 2013 8:52 PM
Officials have released the names of the two people who were killed in Tuesday’s central Sioux Falls apartment fire.
Police said 29-year-old Sulmi Siomara Guerra-Sandoval died while trying to save 2-year-old Eli Galicia.
Firefighters were called to the apartment building on the 200 block of S. Williams Ave. Tuesday morning around 9 o’clock. By the time they got there, flames were coming out of the windows.
Two Sioux Falls men, whose names haven’t been released, heard Guerra-Sandoval’s screams, saw the fire and ran to help.
According to witnesses the two men grabbed the three children as Guerra-Sandoval lowered them from the second story window. Officials said the men told her she needed to get out of the burning building. But instead she went back to find 2-year-old Galicia and was overcome by toxic smoke.
Guerra-Sandoval was being celebrated Tuesday night for her courageousness. Fire officials said she is nothing short of a hero. But those who knew her said they aren’t surprised with what she did.
“We give thanks to God for giving us Sulmi,” said Pastor Saul Arevalo, Calvary Church of Sioux Falls.
Arevalo is the Spanish pastor at Calvary Church in Sioux Falls. He said Guerra-Sandoval and her family have been a part of the church for the past ten years.
“She was a very dedicated mom to the family and pretty faithful lady,” said Arevalo.
And her actions on Tuesday morning to save not only her two children, 2-year-old Emily and 4-year-old Kimberly, as well as Eli Galicia’s 4-and-a-half- year-old brother showed nothing different.
Officials said Guerra-Sandoval lowered the three children from the burning building. Those who were helping her had her arm and told her she needed to come out. But she said no. Then she went back inside to save Galicia. Pastor Saul said it speaks to the type of woman she was.
He said Guerra-Sandoval was a ‘special lady,’ always there for her children and for the church. And the sacrifice she made won’t ever be forgotten.
“In the last moment, she gave her life for her girls, and that is kind of like a hero,” said Arevalo.
Fire chief Jim Sideras agrees.
“When you are taking those kind of sacrifices and knowing that, and doing so without any thought of your own peril, I think you are a hero,” said Sideras.
Arevalo said the Spanish community will be greatly affected by the loss of Guerra-Sandoval.
“We will miss her, but we know she is in the best place now,” said Arevalo.
And he said her courageousness will give them all the strength they need to move on.
“Sulmi is a really good example for everybody to fight for their family, to protect them, love them. Especially in this hard time,” said Arevalo.
All three children were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Guerra-Sandoval’s 4-year-old Kimberly was transferred Wednesday morning to Minneapolis for further treatment. Her other daughter, 2-year-old Emily was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon. Galicia’s older brother remained in the hospital as well in critical condition.
Guerra-Sandoval’s husband is now taking care of their three other daughters. Galicia’s father is here, but his mother is currently in Mexico. Officials said they are working with authorities to get her into the United States.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. However, officials said they found the origin of the fire which was believed to be on the lower level on Guerra-Sandoval’s apartment.
A fund has been set up for the families at Cortrust Bank on Minnesota Avenue under ‘Fire Victim’s Fund.’ Donations can also be dropped off at Calvary Chapel of Sioux Falls.