Cathy Padilla said her family usually has bad luck on New Year's Day, but this year, it hit early.
Flames from a vacant, condemned house next door caught her house on fire on Sunday, destroying her two-bedroom home and most of her possessions, including medication. Her cat was killed in the fire at 1005 Ave. C., and her car was destroyed.
Padilla, 58, lived alone in the home, which had previously belonged to her grandparents, and then to her mother. She said her mother had signed the home over to her and her grandparents. The home was not insured, she said.
Padilla has had assistance from the Red Cross and is staying with her son until she finds another place to live.
She said she has a couple of part-time cleaning jobs and receives Social Security benefits.
She managed to joke and laugh a little during a phone interview Monday - but there was nothing funny about losing her home, she acknowledged.
"I don't know how I feel. I haven't fallen apart," Padilla said. "I'm laughing to keep from crying. It's not funny. It's everything I had."
Fire Marshal Buddy Preston said the cause of the fire at the vacant home next to Padilla's is under investigation. Homeless people had been known to seek shelter in the home, which was on the city's list for demolition, he said.
"Any time you have a vacant house with no utilities, it's going to be suspicious," Preston said.
That home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived around 3 p.m., and "radiant heat" ignited Padilla's home, he said.
Padilla said she was lying down to take a nap when she realized the house next door was on fire. She was outside when firefighters arrived and realized her house was on fire when firefighters began spraying it.
She said her medication was in the process of being replaced Monday afternoon, and she planned to return to the burned home today to retrieve "what's barely salvageable, maybe.
"Everybody's asking me if I need clothes. People are being real kind," Padilla said.