Milton-Freewater community rallies after child's death

A fire that killed Malani Meza injured her mother and two siblings and left the family homeless.

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- As the community rallied to support the family, the investigation continued into a fire that killed a girl early Tuesday.

The Umatilla County Sheriff's Office said Malani Meza, 6, died in the fire that swept through the family's home at 53235 Locust Road. Her mother, Marilu Meza, along with two brothers and two sisters, were able to escape.

Marilu Meza remained hospitalized today at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, where she was listed in stable condition. Her 5-year old daughter, Genesis, was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland for treatment of burns on her hands and feet.

Another child, Christian, 15, was treated and released at Providence St. Mary for a severe burn on the bottom of his foot, said Pastor Owen Frost of Stateline Community Church, who is acting as the family spokesman. The remaining two children, Jacob, 9, and Galillea, 18 months, were unharmed.

Sheriff John Trumbo said Tuesday that investigators have ruled out arson in the case. The sheriff's office, with the aid of the Oregon Fire Marshal's office, was continuing an investigation, but is not prepared to issue a finding, he said.

Terry Hackney, executive director of the Blue Mountain Chapter of the American Red Cross in Walla Walla, said Marilu, who is known as "Mari" to friends and family, became the chapter's health and safety coordinator in February after serving as an instructor for a number of years. As the program coordinator, Meza has "just done a fantastic job," he said.

The Walla Walla chapter is coordinating today with the Oregon Trail Red Cross chapter to help provide emergency food, clothing and shelter for the family, Hackney said. He said it was his understanding that Mari would be going to live with her mother after being released from the hospital, but the chapter would work with her to find a long-term place for the family.

The Milton-Freewater Unified School District, where Malani was a first-grade student at Ferndale Elementary School, has set up an account in her name at Baker Boyer Bank for people wishing to make donations to help the family. Frost said donations of clothing and household items are also being taken at Stateline Community Church and Simmons Insurance Group offices in Milton-Freewater.

"We're going to set up a storage location for them. They need towels, sheets, pots and pans, they lost everything in the fire," he said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.



How to help

An account to aid the Meza family has been set up at Baker Boyer Bank under the name of Malani Meza.

Donations of clothing and household items can be made at Stateline Community Church, 85440 Highway 11 and at Simmons Insurance Group, 620 N. Main in Milton-Freewater. Clothes needed are boy's size 10-1/2 shoes, 32"x32" pants and medium shirts; boy's size 4 shoes, size 10 (regular) pants and size 8 shirt; girl's size 6X clothes and clothing for an 18-month-old girl, size 20 to 24.

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