KEIZER, Ore. (KOIN) — It happened in an instant.
“I was with a friend and we were eating and I was just about to leave and Miguel called to get some milk,” Heather Ruvalcaba told KOIN 6 News Monday. “I just barely talked to him, then I got some milk, came home, go around the corner to my house and I pulled over because I saw a police car coming. Then another. A whole bunch of police cars kept coming and ambulance and fire trucks.”
As she walked toward her house, she realized the enormity of the situation. That was her house, with her husband and children inside.
“I kept screaming, ‘That’s my house! That’s my house!'”
Her husband, Miguel, and her 6-year-old daughter Brixa both died after being pulled from the burning house.
“Miguel was asleep, Brixa was asleep,” Heather said. “The smoke just gets in so fast, so you just can’t wake up.”
Her children — 7-year-old Azaydia, Tavrix, 4, and 2-year-old twins Daxen and Kambriel — were all yelling for their dad.
“He wouldn’t wake up and Brixa was on the other side of the house,” Heather said.
Azaydia said she heard the smoke detector and saw smoke coming out of the garage. She remembered a fire drill she had at school and used that knowledge to save her other siblings.
“I told Tavrix to run out of the house and I got the twins and we went out of the house and then we knocked on the door for Brixa,” the girl said. “Then the neighbors found us and called the fire department.”
She said she told them her dad and sister were inside the house.
“I was scared. I was scared. I was crying for them,” Azaydia said. “Mommy came home and she’s like, ‘What’s happening?’ The police told her everything.”
‘He was the best father’
Heather said she and Miguel had been married 12 years. The doctors told her Miguel’s injuries were extremely critical, “but in my mind I was holding onto that prayer, that last bit of hope.”
She was with him when he died.
“If anybody deserves to be honored as a father and a husband, it’s him. He was the best father. All he was wanted was the kids to be happy.”
She described Brixa as “a little caretaker who loved outdoor activities,” singing and dancing. “She just loved life. She just loved being the best friend to people.”
Heather admits she’s in denial about losing her husband and 4-year-old daughter, not to mention everthing that was in their home.
“It’s just the worst pain in the world, times 2,” she told KOIN 6 News. “It’s hard to get back to reality. I think it’s going to take a long time.”
‘Incredibly difficult time’ at school
Friends and family of Brixa Ruvalcaba and her father Miguel were still trying to grasp the enormity of their loss Monday morning.
“This is an incredibly difficult time,” said Lillian Govus with the Salem-Keizer Public School District. “I was at the school this morning and it’s definitely a solemn environment, but one that is full of a lot of love.”
She said donations of money and items are pouring in for the family who lost everything.
“Right now we’re focusing on gift cards for this family. There are a number of medical bills, funeral costs,” Govus told KOIN 6 News. “At this point, those gift cards and the GoFundMe online are the primary ways folks can help. There’s just not a location for a huge number of physical donations.”
She said some of the children in the school will work through their grief and may have some fear about the incident. “So it’s a good opportunity to talk and help them understand how to keep themselves safe.”
When the time comes, she said the school will help Brixa’s sister get back in the classroom “to be surrounded by the love of her classmates and students at Weddle Elementary school.
If anyone is interested in donating clothes to the family, they wear girls clothes in size 14/16 and shoe size 4, boys clothes size 6/7 and shoe size 1, boys and girls T3 and toddler shoe size 7, size 6 diapers or pullups and women’s size 4XL and shoe size 12. Donations and be dropped off at Weddle Elementary.
There will be a vigil on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. at 1476 NE Rozilla Ct. Keizer, Oregon 97303.