A 30-year-old Merced man was hospitalized with burns to his face, chest and arms Tuesday after a fire broke out in his family’s home.
Two other family members, an 84-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl, suffered minor injuries related to smoke inhalation. A family dog died from the incident, likely from smoke inhalation, the Merced Fire Department confirmed.
The man and 84-year-old woman were both taken to a Fresno hospital, Battalion Chief Don Roe said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. “Apparently, (the residents) tried to put it out themselves before calling 911,” Roe said.
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Another man, whose name and age were not available, escaped without injuries. He declined to comment at the scene.
Wayne Schortzmann said he came outside his home around 6:15 p.m. in the 1100 block of Sentinel Court when he heard fire trucks on the street and saw heavy clouds of thick black smoke and the victim who appeared to have a head injury.
“(The smoke) was everywhere, he said he couldn’t breath,” Schortzmann said. “He was worried about the house.”
Other neighbors said black smoke poured out of every opening in the house, making it difficult to breath in the neighborhood for several minutes.
Although the investigation is still preliminary, firefighters believe the blaze started in the kitchen and laundry room area of the four-bedroom house.
Schortzmann said the male victim believed the fire started next to the refrigerator.
Four Merced Fire Department engines were on scene and 16 firefighters responded to the call. Firefighters were forced to cut holes in the roof of the home to clear smoke, in order to see whether the fire was out, Roe said.
Neighbors clustered in small groups to watch firefighters work, but others who were taking pictures and cellphone videos had to be pushed back and the Merced Police Department eventually roped the area off with crime scene tape to give firefighters room to work.
Firefighters said the blaze does not appear suspicious.