RadioActive at South Park
11:13 am
Tue December 18, 2012

15-Year-Old Girl: My Candles Burned Down My Home

Dulce's bedroom after the fire
Credit Dulce Saucedo

Lighting a few candles may not seem like a big deal. But for RadioActive youth producer Dulce Saucedo, lighting candles one night when she was 15 years old meant losing her family's home in Seattle's South Park neighborhood. Dulce, now 16, shares this meditation on the night when she lost everything she owned.

When my house burned down I knew in that moment that my life was going to change. That everything wasn't going to be the same anymore.

I still remember that day as if it were just yesterday.

After I finished my school project, I started to burn pictures of my dad. He left us. Then I lay down and went to sleep.

The ashes from the photos weren't all the way out; you could still see the red stuff on them. I also had candles lit around my room. I didn't think they would burn down the whole room, but they did.

When I woke up in my room and I saw the fire, I knew that I was going to die, that this was the end of my story.

The next thing I saw was my brother, coming to save me. He grabbed my arm and said, "Let's go!"

I didn't know that he cared that much to come and save me. He would always tell me that he hated me, that he wished I was dead.  It made me feel happy that he cared about me, that really he never did hate me.

But there's no day that I don't feel that this is my fault, that I can't ever do anything right. There are days that I could cry myself to sleep. There are nights that I can't go to sleep. There are nights that I don't have any tears to cry. I always have the feeling that I let my family down.

Dulce Saucedo
Credit Jason Pagano

It's never too easy to start again.  The day after the fire, we went back to get our stuff.  I ran up to my room. I could feel my heart stop a beat. I was in the middle of the room. The next thing I knew, I fell down on my knees and started to cry, asking, what have I done? This was the worst thing I could have ever done, forgetting to blow out my candles.

But I know that I have to be strong for my family. Not just for my family, but for myself too.

My mom told me once that life is like swimming. If I stop swimming, I will drown in my tears. I've told myself I'm not going to drown.

Find out how to prevent candles fires in this fact sheet from Seattle's Fire Department.

This fall, KUOW hosted an after-school workshop for high school students at the South Park Community Center. It was part of our youth radio program, RadioActive. Six youth producers spent eight weeks learning what it means to be a radio journalist. They created powerful stories about subjects close to their hearts. Listen to RadioActive stories here and stay up-to-date with RadioActive on Facebook.

Related program: