The day her house burned, police took her away.
Jamie Atwater needed help, neighbors and a relative said Wednesday afternoon as they watched Modesto firefighters spray the burned-out home on Waring Way in Modesto.
"I have been trying to get her committed for months," said her cousin Frank Watson, ever since she drove to Salt Lake City and thought she was in Stockton.
"She's not in touch with reality," said Watson, who said Atwater is schizophrenic.
About 4 p.m. Wednesday, Modesto fire officials said Atwater, 60, made it out of her house as flames erupted.
The night before, Atwater's next-door neighbor said, she called 911 after hearing yelling and banging.
"She heard voices in the wires," Felicia Zapien said. "She's always yelling at the voices."
Officers came, spoke with Atwater, and left, Zapien's mother said.
"It's sad. It's really sad," Kimberlie Zapien said.
Atwater served in the Air Force. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology while working at a custodial job at San Jose State University, Watson said. She moved back to Modesto after retiring and bought the Waring Way home about four or five years ago.
Modesto Fire Battalion Chief Hugo Patino confirmed that the electricity was disconnected at Atwater's home and that she had been taken into custody.
He said the fire had burned the kitchen and family room, as well as a rear patio, with smoke damage throughout the residence. He estimated the damage at $150,000.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.