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Community Rallies to Assist Family Ravaged by Death, Fire

Community members are rallying to support the family of Jimmy De La Riva, the 4-year-old boy who died in an apartment fire last Friday as his father looked on helplessly.

Lori and Joseph De La Riva and their four young children whom Joseph rescued from the blaze have been living in a motel room paid for by the Red Cross. The organization also paid for funeral services for Jimmy, who was buried Wednesday in Santa Ana.

Employees at the Tustin post office, where the boy’s mother has worked for about a month, have raised more than $700 for the family and plan to hold a bake sale Tuesday to raise more money.

More than $1,500 has been donated to a memorial fund established by the boy’s grandmother, Josie Ruiz, at the Bank of America branch in Tustin.

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Ruiz said the family members are holding up well emotionally, although they remain angry that police officers blocked Joseph De La Riva from trying to rescue his son. Officers said he could have been killed in the attempt to bring Jimmy out. De La Riva rushed Joseph Jr., 7, and Adam, 6, out the front door of the burning apartment before carrying out Micah, 3, and Sarah, 1 1/2.

“We are more at peace now,” Ruiz said. “We’re doing a lot better. We had a beautiful service. We know he’s in a safe place. The pastor said he’s playing in the streets of gold.”

Ruiz said the family is touched by the response of the community.

“People from all over the county are donating money,” she said. “Five dollars here or $10 there, but it’s adding up. We hope it brings a lot of families closer together.”

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The fire caused an estimated $80,000 damage to the three-bedroom apartment on Bliss Lane and destroyed most of the family’s belongings.

“They lost everything,” Ruiz said. “They had no savings. Whatever money they had was in Joe’s wallet and that was lost in the fire too.”

Erla Sine, a postal worker who is helping organize the bake sale, said De La Riva’s co-workers wanted to help after learning of the tragedy. Donations of baked goods are being solicited for Tuesday’s sale at the post office parking lot, 340 E. 1st St., from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We don’t think our employees alone will supply enough to last all day,” Sine said. “With just our employees, we’d probably sell out by 11. There’s only about 100 of us.”

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Ruiz said the family has received donations of clothing, furniture and household goods, but is still in need of many items. They are looking for an apartment, she said, because they will be leaving the motel Friday.


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