Unharmed family works to rise above ashes

“I’ve been crying all morning that I think I’m out of tears.”

Daughter Krystal Palma said she didn’t cry because she was sad from the fire that claimed her mother’s home. She cried because her mom was there when it happened.

“I couldn’t believe she was alive,” Palma said. “We could’ve been having a whole different kind of conversation right now and I just — I can’t even believe it right now. I’ve never felt so blessed and so cursed in the same day.”

An overloaded electrical outlet is believed to be the cause of the fire that caused extensive damage to a Roswell home at the 600 block of North Ohio Avenue Tuesday morning.

The Roswell Fire Department’s public information officer Todd Wildermuth said firefighters received a call at about 8:30 a.m. in reference to a structure fire.

The only person inside the house when the fire started was 57-year-old Rita Brown, who lived alone.

Wildermuth said the woman got out of the house before fire crews arrived.

“Firefighters had (the) fire under control by 9:25 a.m.,” he said. “(The) fire marshal believes cause of fire was an overloaded electrical outlet in (the) back bedroom.”

Palma said her mother got a call from work in the early morning telling her she didn’t have to come into work.

“Then she came into here to have some coffee, and then everything went up,” Palma said. “I felt like if that lady wouldn’t have called mom, or she just had to work, or you know — I was worried about her getting smoke inhalation and dying before she even burned up.”

Palma said she never thought an incident like this would occur.

“Things like this, you don’t think will happen to you, or to people that you know,” she said. “You realize the loss and what everybody else felt whenever you saw them going through it and it’s just — you know how they feel and it’s just unimaginable.

“(You think) they only happen in movies, or to people that are around the corner or miles away from you in bigger cities. But it doesn’t. Things like this happen to normal people all the time.”

Palma said her mother has lived through some of the most devastating incidents she’s ever seen, including being a stroke victim and losing her husband.

“She is a living testament to ‘God gives you what you can handle.’ She’s strong enough to deal with it,” Palma said. “If I live to be half as amazing as my mom is, then I’ll be all the better for it.”

Palma said she and her husband moved out from her mother’s home five months ago, but was planning to move back.

“We moved in and helped her get a little bit better and things, and then we went ahead and moved out,” Palma said. “But now, she’s going to come live with me. I’m going to take care of her just the same as I always had.

“I’ve always taken care of her, and I always will.”

Palma said her mother is still taking in what happened.

“I think she’s trying to comprehend everything that’s happened the last few years,” Palma said. “I think she’s wondering why and — a mix of emotions.

While Palma doesn’t quite know how start putting the pieces of life back together, she said her mother has helped her overcome adversity.

“She passed me the torch, but I kind of had to give it back to her to re-light it a couple of times, but that’s OK,” she joked. “At least she’s still here to light the torch.”

Following the fire, Brown’s shoes, and much of her clothing, was burned. Palma said someone gave her a pair of shoes, another resident, $100 and a cup of coffee from someone else. Palma was taken by surprise.

“It’s like, ‘I don’t even know you people,’ Palma said. “You don’t know if we deserved it or didn’t deserve it, but you think that we deserve your kindness.

“You never know how many people care and how loving people can be.”

Brown said she had been living in her home for 18 years.

“This has always been good block though,” she said. “That’s why I’ve lived here for so long.”

The RFD came by the singed home later Tuesday in reference to a smoldering within the building. After they responded and helped, a firefighter told the family they hope things get better.

“They put their lives at risk too,” Palma said. “They’re saying they hope our lives get better, and they’ve just put their lives in jeopardy to make ours better, so I hope their day gets better too.”

Krystal Palma’s sister, Ariella Palma, said her family, friends and others are doing what they can to help. She created a GoFundMe campaign to help aid with Brown’s expenses.

“She lost clothes, shoes, blankets, but most importantly — her house,” Ariella Palma wrote. “The house is a complete loss and now our family is needing to come up with some money to cover the cost of a place to stay.

“The donations will go to a new home and, hopefully, replace what was lost in the fire. ”

To contribute to the fundraiser, visit gofundme.com/a-home-for-rita.

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.