‘The baby’s in the house!’ 911 fire call recounts frantic neighbor’s cry for help

In a 911 call released by the Charlotte Fire Department on Friday, a neighbor pleads for help as fire tears through a family’s east Charlotte home.

“The baby’s in the house!” the neighbor tells the 911 dispatcher. “Oh, my God.”

The fire killed two children and left five other family members with life-threatening injuries in hospitals.

Aranza Santa Mendez Sanchez
Aranza Santa Mendez Sanchez, age 2, died late Wednesday night from injuries she suffered in a house fire at her home in East Charlotte. Courtesy of Clementino Mendez Domingo

Leonel Alexander Villagrez Sanchez
Leonel Alexander Villagrez Sanchez, age 9, died following a house fire in East Charlotte early Wednesday morning. He was a third grader at Briarwood Elementary. Courtesy of Clementino Mendez Domingo

In the frantic 911 call, the neighbor at first reports the house across the street being on fire. “It’s blazing,” she tells the dispatcher. “Oh God, it’s bad!”

Deborah Schaeffer confirmed to the Observer on Friday that she is the neighbor who called 911.

Deborah Schaeffer, who lives across the street from the Academy Street house fire, called 911 about the overnight fire. John D. Simmons jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

In the call, Schaeffer then tells the dispatcher that children are coming to her house from the fire.

“Come, come,” Schaeffer can be heard telling the children entering her home, before she tells the dispatcher, “they’re here.”

“There’s a baby in the house?” the woman can be heard asking the children. “Oh, my God.”

A response in Spanish can be heard, and Schaeffer tells the dispatcher a 3-month-old is in the back of the burning house.

As Schaeffer speaks with the dispatcher, a woman in the background can be heard screaming in Spanish: “Ana is still in the house! And yes, the baby! Hurry!”

“Ana” is Ana Sanchez, the mother of the four children in the burning home.

The call ends when fire trucks arrive at the home early Wednesday in the 1900 block of Academy Street.

Also Friday, the fire department released a 911 call from the father of at least one of the children who died. Clementino Mendez Domingo told the 911 dispatcher that he was calling from work to report the fire, according to the recording.

“My wife just called,” Mendez Domingo tells the dispatcher in English. “We have a fire at the house. I asked them to get out, but I’m going to call them back.”

He then gave the dispatcher his wife’s phone number.

Clementino Mendez Domingo told The Charlotte Observer in an interview Thursday that he was at work in Union County when the fire erupted in the family’s home.

His wife, Ana Sanchez, remained at Carolinas Medical Center on Friday, he told the Observer. She was in intensive care suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, he said.

Mendez Domingo told the Observer on Thursday that his step-son, 9-year-old Leonel Alexander Villagrez Sanchez, died on Wednesday at Novant Health Presbyterian. His 2-year-old daughter, Aranza Santa Mendez Sanchez, died around 11 p.m. Wednesday at Carolinas Medical Center, Mendez Domingo said.

Five other family members all suffered life-threatening injuries and are in hospitals in Charlotte, Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem, Mendez Domingo said.

Mendez Domingo said his 3-month-old son, Axel Camilo Mendez Santos, remains in Carolinas Medical Center. Axel also is in intensive care suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, he said.

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