Elderly couple killed in Houston house fire sparks heating safety warning ahead of arctic blast

An elderly couple was killed in a house fire in southeast Houston and officials are investigating if a heating appliance is what caused the tragic fire.

"We can't believe it; we can't believe it," said an emotional Adriana Hernandez, the niece of the two victims. 

Family members gathered around the home of Mauro and Angie Blanco, both in their 70s.

REMINDER FROM METEOROLOGIST MIKE ISCOVITZ: Houston freeze safety reminders: Heating your home, generators, staying warm

The couple was found dead inside their Hemlock Street home that went up in flames around 3 a.m. on Thursday. 

"Firefighters tried to enter the house, at that time the porch collapsed on them, so they had to retreat and go defensive on this fire," said Captain Sedrick Robinett, Public Information Officer for the Houston Fire Department.

And while the cause of the fire hasn't been pinned down, the investigation is centered around some sort of heating device. 

"They think it had to do with an appliance they were using to keep warm," said Jannette Juarez, another niece of the victims.

SUGGESTED: Warming centers in Houston area open Thursday for freeze, arctic blast

With the arctic blast set to send chills through the greater Houston area, this is a stark reminder to be careful how you heat your home.

"Space heaters should be always placed on the ground 3-ft away from anything that's combustible. If you do decide to use a generator in this freeze, make sure it's at least 20-ft away from the building, away from your home and garage, because we don't want carbon monoxide to seep back through your vents and your windows," Captain Robinett warned.

It's also critical for people to have carbon monoxide detectors working in their homes on every level, check their smoke detectors, and never sleep with their space heater on.