2 young children, grandmother die in Conroe house fire, officials say

A total of 7 people were trapped inside

CONROE, Texas – Two young children and a grandmother died in a house fire in Conroe early Saturday, according to Jimmy Williams, the Montgomery County fire marshal.

Investigators were called to the home on Long Valley Court in Conroe around 2:30 a.m.

Williams said when crews arrived, the home was fully engulfed in flames and was filled with heavy smoke. Seven people were trapped inside the home -- a mother, father and their four children, as well as their grandmother, Williams said.

Monica McCann, who lives across the street, told KPRC she smelled smoke before the flames started and realized something was wrong.

She said she heard the grandmother screaming.

Other neighbors used a bat to break windows to let out smoke. McCann said her goal was to wake up the parents and get the children out. She also tried to break a window.

Raquel Figueroa, 92, died at the scene.

VIDEO: Deadly Conroe house fire press conference

Vanessa Zarate, 1, was removed from the home and taken to Texas Children's in The Woodlands, but later died, Williams said. Marco Zarate Jr., 6, was also pulled from the home, but was pronounced dead at the scene. Both children died from smoke inhalation, according to autopsy reports.

Daniel Figueroa, 7, and Julian Zarate, 5, were able to escape the fire with the help of neighbors just before crews arrived at the scene, according to Williams. They suffered smoke inhalation.

The mother, 30-year-old Amanda Zarate, father, 27-year-old Marco Zarate, and surviving children were taken to area hospitals in various conditions. Marco Zarate suffered from smoke inhalation, cuts, scrapes and second- and third-degree burns, Williams said.

Officials said Amanda Zarate remains hospitalized with severe smoke inhalation and burns.

"It smelled toxic. There was something in it. You can all imagine why they had smoke inhalation issues. It was so bad," McCann said.

Investigators said they believe the fire may have started in the kitchen and spread to the living room area, blocking the path to the exit for the family.

The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Neighbors said the community is rallying around the family and will be organizing a neighborhood prayer gathering later this evening.