A relentless fire gutted a trailer home off Highway 99 near Beachwood Drive on Tuesday, killing one woman and leaving a grieving boyfriend and another man in the hospital.
Neighbors desperately tried to save the woman, but their efforts ultimately fell short.
Investigators from the Merced County Fire Department and Merced County Sheriff’s Department still haven’t determined the cause of the fire — although it has been deemed accidental.
The name of the victim, who witnesses say was a woman in her 40s, also hasn’t yet been released, pending notification of next-of-kin.
The fire broke out around 8:30 a.m. at the Golden Wheel Mobile Home Park, 1900 Ashby Road. Leo Regalado, the park’s manager, identified the owner of the burned mobile home as Jon Crangle. Regalado said the victim and her boyfriend had been staying at Crangle’s home as guests when the fire erupted.
Sheriff’s spokesperson Ed Katen said the home, a fifth-wheel trailer, was completely engulfed in flames by the time investigators arrived. Sheriff’s and county fire investigators sifted through the trailer’s blackened shell, photographing a burned stove and other charred remains.
Katen said the fire appears to have started at or near the rear interior of the trailer. “That seems to be the hottest spot,” Katen said.The scene was dramatic when investigators arrived, as residents tried to save the woman. The victim’s boyfriend cried out in grief as paramedics took him and Crangle to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.
Many residents in the park were struck by how quickly the home went up in flames. Regalado arrived at the scene shortly after the fire began. “By the time we got out here, it was already burned,” he recalled.
Ralph Burguette, 71, a resident in the park, said he ran outside and saw the two men who escaped the blaze crying. “(One of the men) was yelling pretty bad about it because they couldn’t get the girl out,” he said.
Burguette said he ran to the burning mobile home with a fire extinguisher, but the flames were too powerful for it to have any effect. He then tried spraying the fire with a garden hose, which also proved futile.
Residents were also trying to break the windows of the mobile home to spay water inside, Burguette said.
None of it was enough.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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