Fire Marshall: Space heater likely caused fire that resulted in the death of 7-year-old girl

A mobile home in Valley View — north of Denton — caught fire early Wednesday morning, officials say.

VALLEY VIEW, Texas — A fire that killed a young girl at a mobile home in a small community north of Denton Wednesday morning was likely caused by a space heater, family members told WFAA. 

A week after the Jan.17 fire, the Cooke County Fire Marshall made a preliminary determination that the cause of the fire was a space heater.

Delena Zuniga, 7, died in the fire, her aunt said. Her 11-year-old brother and her father were rushed to Parkland Hospital after sustaining burns running into the home to try to save her. 

“There is a massive hole in our lives that cannot be refilled,” Maegan Self, the young girl’s aunt, said. “It’s devastating.” 

Self said her nephew woke up to the flames around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and alerted the rest of the family.

“He said,  ‘Poppy, Poppy, there’s a fire in Delena’s room,'” she said. 

The family’s mobile home did not have central heating or air, and the family of eight had been using space heaters to keep warm.

“She had all this curly hair, and she hated brushing it out,” Self said of Delena through tears. “She was just a little girl.”

The photos she and other family members have collected on their phones are a cold comfort as their loss begins to sink in, she says. 

“I just cannot believe we went from a normal life one day to this,” she said.

Self said the last family members have been discharged from the hospital, but they don’t have a place to go home to. Their mobile home was gutted by the blaze. 

Community members brought teddy bears to the home on J L Drive in honor of Delena and hosted a $20 per plate fundraiser for the family across the street Saturday. 

A family friend has set up a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses and to help the family find a new place to call home. 

The Valley View ISD also announced its elementary school would accept clothing and gift card donations for the family. They said donations can be dropped off at the elementary campus office, and they are looking for a number of items, including:

  • Money or gift cards for food and other immediate needs
  • Clothes and shoes in the following sizes:
  • Adult Medium (boys/men)
  • Adult Women’s 3x
  • Adult Men’s XL
  • Extra large boys
  • 6/7 boys
  • 2T girls
  • 18 month girls
  • Size 10 women’s shoes
  • Size 9.5 men’s shoes
  • Size 7 men’s shoes
  • Size 5 kid’s shoes
  • Size 2 kid’s shoes
  • Size 9 toddler’s/little kid’s shoes
  • Size 5 toddler’s/little kid’s shoes
  • Diapers in sizes 4 and 5
  • Any additional items, such as blankets, bathroom toiletries, and basic necessities

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