DOS PALOS — Salvador and Jennive Granados' children put on latex gloves and sifted through the charred remnants of their parents' Dos Palos area home Sunday.
The day before, a large fire had quickly swept through the two-bedroom home at 16481 Carey St., killing Salvador, 86, and Jennive, 85.
Mary Lou Lerma, 60, one of the couple's 11 children, joined her siblings Sunday, brushing the ashes off heirlooms and cherished family mementos and beginning the long process of mourning her beloved parents.
Lerma said she never imagined such a tragedy would strike her parents, whom she described as kind and loving.
"That's my hurt that we were not able to help them," Lerma said.
Firefighters with Cal Fire/Merced County Fire Department said that even though the fire remains under investigation, it appears to have started in the kitchen area of the home.
The blaze broke out about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. By the time firefighters arrived minutes later, the home was fully engulfed in flames, according to Capt. Jeremy Rahn.
Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings, and the fire was contained by 3 a.m., Rahn said. Firefighters remained at the scene until about 8 a.m. Saturday.
Robert Granados, the couple's 59-year-old son, said he received a call early Saturday, notifying him that his parents' house was on fire. He lives on a property adjacent to his parents' home and frantically rushed to the scene.
He said he burned his hand while trying to enter the house. Despite his efforts to rescue his parents, it was too late.
"There was no way I could have gotten in," Granados said, wearing a plastic bag tied over his burned hand to help cover the wound. "The fire was very intense."
Family members described Salvador Granados as a hardworking man who immigrated to the United States in the early 1960s from the Mexican city of Zamora and spent his life working as a farm laborer. Jennive Granados was from San Diego. The couple had 11 children, and Jennive had three from a previous marriage, according to family members.
Jennive recently had been suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to family members. And Salvador wasn't able to get around as well as he used to because of an injured back.
Still, Salvador refused to let old age hinder him. Family members said he spent his days tending to a large garden behind the home. The garden holds a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, including peaches, nectarines, figs, almonds, lemons, grapes, oranges, cilantro and tomatoes.
"He didn't ask for help. That I know. He was a very proud man, and he was very proud of his hobby," Robert Granados said.
"Even though he was over 80, he could not sit still," Mary Lou Lerma said.
Angelica Lerma, Salvador and Jennive's grand-daughter-in-law, said her family appreciates the level of support they've received in the aftermath of the fire.
"Our whole family wants to thank the Merced County Fire Department, the sheriff's deputies and the coroner investigator," she said.
"Everyone that has come here has been so respectful and helpful."
Fourteen firefighters, a battalion chief, a water tender and five engines responded to the scene.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.