Woman, 91, fatally burned on Christmas


On Christmas Eve, family members came to visit 91-year-old Dorie F. Pozas at the apartment building where she lived in Pacoima.

They left that evening and Pozas, whose husband died several years earlier, woke up alone Christmas morning.

She lit a candle, perhaps to light a star-shaped lantern made of rice paper that Filipino families traditionally use to celebrate Christmas — the light represents the Star of Bethlehem.


About 9 a.m. Sunday, a visitor saw smoke coming from under Pozas’ door.

Firefighters kicked down her door. After putting out a small blaze, they found Pozas on the floor, badly burned, her clothes still smoldering. She died soon after.

Authorities say the candle must have set her nightgown on fire.

Death isn’t unusual at the six-story, 93-unit brick building that is home to a diverse mix of independent senior citizens, said Leroy Geter, president of the board of directors at Pledgerville Senior Citizens Villa on Norris Avenue. As it happened, Pozas’ next-door neighbor lost a sister the same day.

But in Geter’s two decades working at the building, this tragedy was unique, he said.

Pozas was known as the kind, little Filipino woman who handed out roasted peanuts.

“She had a bright smile and liked to dance at the parties we had,” said Donald Sanders, the building’s maintenance man.

“It was traumatic for her family,” Geter said.

They came to the apartment building on Christmas Day as soon as they heard the news and spent several hours talking with the firefighters about what had happened.

“I don’t know how you reconcile this fire with the joy of Christmas,” he said.

Pozas would have turned 92 in January, records show.