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Mom quarantining in basement is killed in fire when floor collapses

The fire broke out early Wednesday morning.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — When the floor of a home collapsed in a fire, a woman quarantining in the basement was killed. Fire officials are working to learn what led to the fire that left a mother dead and her family displaced in Gwinnett County early Wednesday morning. It happened on Kennesaw Street in Buford just before 3 a.m. 

A neighbor told 11Alive they saw four children and another adult running out of the home and said the victim lived there with her husband, mother-in-law and the kids. Relatives at the scene identified the woman as 41-year-old Febe Santos.  Her kids range in age from seven to 15 years old.

The family said she was staying in the basement because she was exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms although she had recently tested negative. Her husband had been battling COVID-19 in the hospital for two weeks. He is the owner of Giron Gutters and pastor of Tabernáculo de Fé in Duluth. 

In a release, fire crews said that "flames" were "blowing out of the windows at the rear." 

After a few other tactics, firefighters were able to enter through the front door but faced trouble when they reached the part of the floor that collapsed into the basement. The stars in the home were also compromised. 

"To prevent significant injuries or loss of life to personnel, firefighters had to cease rescue efforts and focus exclusively on extinguishing the flames. Due to the construction of the home, heat remained trapped inside creating the potential for reignition. Firefighters gained access to the roof and used a chainsaw to cut open ventilation holes to release that heat," the release said.

Authorities are working to determine if the fire, smoke inhalation, or something else killed the woman. Firefighters said they cannot rule out multiple power sources as a cause for the fire as it did begin in the basement.

Family said the kids have moved in with their mother's cousin, who has four kids of his own. Church members and family have been helping to clean up and salvage belongings from the rubble. 

A GoFundMe has been started to help the family

Gwinnett County Fire released these reminders to ensure families will establish good fire safety habits:

  • Firefighters encourage everyone to install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area.
  • Install alarms on every level of the home. Pull together everyone in the household and make a plan.
  • Walkthrough the home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.
  • Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of the home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
  • Practice this escape plan at least twice a year.

Return to 11Alive.com for updates.