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Illegal Fireworks Set Home Afire

Times Staff Writer

A Simi Valley man’s home caught fire Tuesday morning after illegal fireworks landed on his wood-shingled roof, authorities said.

Investigators are trying to determine who set off the bottle rockets that destroyed the roof and forced firefighters to drench the home with water, leaving it uninhabitable.

When they arrived at the home in the 4200 block of Apricot Road, Ventura County firefighters found remnants of rockets on other nearby homes, and some witnesses said the fireworks were launched from Santa Susana Elementary School across the street, Capt. Barry Parker said.

The wood roof had been on the house since the 1950s, Simi Valley Police Sgt. Stephanie Shannon said. She described it as “extremely dry and very hazardous.”

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The charred home belongs to Chris Palomarez, 79, who was not there when the fire started at 9:30 a.m. He was performing what has become his daily ritual in the decade since his wife died: taking a flower to her grave at El Rancho Simi Cemetery.

Palomarez’s daughter said her father didn’t know why people were shooting off fireworks.

“He just can’t understand. There are places to go for fireworks. Why do they have to bring all this extra stuff? Look at what they do to people,” Rachel Massey, 52, said. “There’s no reason for this.”

Firefighters rescued three parakeets and one cockatoo from the house where Palomarez and his wife, Evelyn, raised their nine children. They also saved the 1957 Chevrolet truck in his garage and a framed portrait of his wife that he kept on his nightstand.

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Palomarez is uninsured and refuses financial help, his daughter said.

“He said he’s happy with just people offering to clean up,” said Massey, adding that many people had volunteered to help.

Palomarez has meticulously preserved the white-trimmed yellow house as it was when his wife was alive, Massey said. The day after the fire, he sat quietly in a shaded chair out front as his sons, daughters and grandchildren searched for family keepsakes and placed them on the lawn.

Massey said her father will rebuild the home, where he has lived since the 1960s, and will stay for the time being with one of his other daughters who lives in Simi Valley.

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Shannon said causing the fire was a felony, punishable by fines, prison and restitution.

Anyone with information is asked to call Simi Valley Police Det. Gene Hostetler at (805) 583-6969.


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