Fire Victim Described as Giving Person Who Always Smiled

Melanie Díaz, who died in a Feb. 18 Silver Spring apartment fire as she tried to escape the smoke and flames, was described as a bright girl with big dreams who loved her two dogs and wanted to save the world.

About 75 people attended a vigil Thursday night in her memory in front of the Arrive Apartments on Georgia Avenue, where she had lived. Her photo, candles, pictures of her dogs and flowers were displayed in a small area.

Díaz, 26, lived on the 11th floor of the Arrive Apartments. A fire began early in the morning in a seventh-floor apartment that quickly spread throughout the building. When Díaz realized what was happening, she grabbed her dogs and ran to the stairwell.

She only made it down two flights before perishing. When she was found, her coat and her body were wrapped around her dogs as she tried to save them, said her fiancée Michael Sobalvarro.

The two met six years ago at Georgetown University, where Díaz was attending on a full academic scholarship. “At school, she always had the biggest smile,”  he said.

Her parents, Zuleika Madera and Cesar Díaz of Venezuela, sobbed as they talked about their love for their daughter and how much they miss her. “She was a lovely person,” said her father.

Díaz was an environmentalist who worked at the Aspen Institute and planned to spend her career studying the effects of the environment on the most vulnerable people.

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Originally published Feb. 23. Video added Feb. 24.

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