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Three Fires, Three Deaths, Two Injuries

Two devastating fires within 16 hours of each other ravaged areas in Mount Vernon on Dec. 15. A third, less serious fire occurred three days later.

A father and his two daughters died in a fire Dec. 15, which broke out in their two-story townhouse on St. Anne’s Court at around 11 p.m.

Jairo F. Hernandez, 32, his daughter, Casandra Ivette Hernandez, 3, and her sister, Maria Isabel Cruz, 6, were pronounced dead from smoke inhalation at a local hospital. The fourth victim, an adult, remains at George Washington Hospital in critical condition, according to Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.

The first arriving units reported smoke visible through the rear basement window. A second alarm was requested, bringing more than 60 emergency personnel to the scene.

Investigators determined a defective electrical outlet in the basement area of the home caused the fire. Damage has been estimated at $75,000.

"Although there were several smoke detectors in the house, they were not in working order," said Lt. Raul Castillo, public information officer for Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.

Castillo said firefighters went throughout the neighborhood Friday evening distributing smoke detectors and explaining their installation and use to residents.

EARLIER ON DEC. 15, at about 6:30 a.m., Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department units responded to a fire at the Southern Motel on Richmond Highway. When the units arrived fire and smoke was visible from the rear of an end unit.

Fire personnel requested a second alarm bringing more than 60 personnel to the scene said Daniel L. Schmidt, department public information officer.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control in about 20 minutes, Schmidt said.

"Two firefighters were taken to the hospital for non-life threatening burns. One was treated and released and the other admitted," Schmidt said. The second firefighter remains hospitalized.

The unit where the fire occurred was occupied by a woman and two children who were not there at the time. They are being assisted by the Red Cross and have been housed in another unit, according to fire department personnel.

The fire's cause was attributed to an accidental electrical malfunction below a wall-mounted heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit. Damage is estimated at $50,000.

ON DEC. 18, at approximately 12:20 p.m. a fire was reported at the Huntington Gardens apartments located on Fairhaven Avenue.

Arriving units reported heavy smoke coming from the three-story structure, requiring a second alarm. The fire was brought under control in approximately 10 minutes, according the department.

The blaze was contained to one apartment that was unoccupied at the time. There were no reported injuries. Damage was estimated at approximately $25,000. The fire remains under investigation.