Uncle names girls killed in Butte fire, says trailer needed repairs

The uncle of five girls who died in a trailer fire in the Butte community near Palmer Thursday said Friday that they were all members of the same family.

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Armando Astorga identified the fire victims as Jaelynn Flores, 3, Sofia Flores, 6, Lillyanna Flores, 7, Nevaeh Flores, 8, and Alexis Quackenbush, 12.

Astorga lives in Los Angeles and spoke by phone while in Seattle about to board a plane to Anchorage.

“They were always together, they were always happy,” Astorga said. “They were sisters, and they were a family. That’s all they had was each other.”

The girls’ father, Astorga’s brother, had just started a new job as a school bus driver and was going through training early Thursday when his wife called. She had left them home alone for just a few minutes and returned to find their trailer ablaze.

The family had been trying to get their landlord to repair the place, including work on both a gas leak and an electrical issue, Astorga said. He said the landlord, who is a relatively new owner of the property, had been making the repairs.

Astorga said his brother showed fire investigators the text messages between him and the landlord regarding the repairs.

For now, Astorga said, the family is still reeling from the horrible news that the five girls died. He said he hopes to help his brother and sister-in-law through the grieving process.

“My brother lost all five of his babies. And in this way, it’s just unimaginable for a parent to go through,” Astorga said.

For now, the fire remains under investigation. Neither the Alaska State Troopers nor the state fire marshals office have said publicly what they believe caused the fire.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Casey here

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