Mobile home fire claims two lives in Gustine

Modesto BeeSeptember 20, 2012 

— A fire tore through a mobile home in a quiet area of town Wednesday night, killing two people. Investigators remained at the scene Thursday but said they did not suspect foul play.

The blaze broke out shortly after 9 p.m. at the Green Acres Mobile Home Park on Meredith Avenue near Harry Schmidt Park and Highway 33.

Firefighters arriving at the scene found 30-foot flames burning through the mobile home's roof. They discovered the bodies inside. Police Chief Doug Dunford said the victims were a man and a woman.

Merced County sheriff's deputy Tom MacKenzie, whose office is handling the coroner's investigation, said the bodies have not been positively identified. "They were pretty badly burned," he said.

Neighbors said George and Mary Williams had lived in the home for several years and recently remodeled with new windows and carpet.

"They were really nice people," said Darlene Mattos, who lives across the way from the burned mobile home. "They kept to themselves, but they were very friendly when I'd see them."

Alfonso Cardoza said he saw flames coming out of the top of the mobile home. Although firefighters arrived quickly, there wasn't much anyone could do to save the victims from the swift-moving blaze. Cardoza said George Williams had suffered from poor health recently.

Firefighters contained the blaze within 30 minutes. Dunford said foul play doesn't appear to be a factor in the blaze, though fire investigators still are working.

Twenty firefighters, five engines, two water tenders, a rescue squad and one battalion chief responded to the scene, along with Gustine police and Merced County sheriff's deputies.

Thursday, there remained only a burned-out shell of the home. A car in the adjacent carport sustained moderate damage, and a garbage toter had melted completely.

"It's just awful," Mattos said. "I just can't believe it. I feel so sad."

Sun-Star City Editor Victor Patton contributed to this report.

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