SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU/) - San Jose arson investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that killed an elderly woman Thursday night.
Neighbors say the smell of smoke and sight of flames woke them shortly before midnight. A double-wide mobile home, inside the Westwinds Park, had gone up in flames.
“It was up in blazes man. All of us rushed over to start wetting the neighbor’s fence," said neighbor Raul Guzman. "We threw out our hose so the neighbor’s fence wouldn’t catch on fire."
The San Jose Fire Department responded within minutes to the two-alarm blaze in the 200 block of El Bosque Drive, in North San Jose.
Officials say there were initial reports of a person trapped inside. Cell phone video from neighbors shows flames shooting into the air about 10-feet above the mobile home. Witnesses said that the resident inside was an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman, who was home alone at the time without her caregiver.
“I just see the whole house just torching up flames. And I’m like oh my god it’s on fire,” said next-door neighbor Charles Fullmer.
He believes the fire burned the side of the mobile home before moving inside. He said he and his father tried to rescue the victim, but were unable.
“We opened up the door and just black smoke just hit us in the face. And there was no way we could get in there," said Fullmer. "I yelled her name, but I didn’t hear anything."
Added an unidentified woman who said she’s friends with the victim, “It makes me think not to take things for granted. I mean we’ve known her for every year we’ve lived here, and you don’t think something like that is gonna happen.”
This is the second fatal mobile home fire at Westwinds Park in as many years. On April 20, 2018, 22-year-old Minh Ho ran back into a fire scene on Hermitage Drive to save his niece. But the nine-year-old girl was already out, and Ho was killed.
“Unfortunately with these homes, when it’s built (before) 1976, these were built for temporary housing," said Franco Perez, a representative for Advantage Homes, which sells units in the mobile home park. "And the insulation and the way it’s built isn’t meant to, isn’t as advanced to go against fire. So they burn up really quickly."
San Jose fire officials believe the home did have a smoke detector, but that it likely melted in the fire. Also, despite a handicapped resident living here, the home did not have a ramp, making a quick escape in an emergency impossible.
“She was handicapped. She couldn’t move. She actually needed her caretaker to move her around. And he wasn’t there to move her around and she was left all by herself,” said Fullmer.
As investigators examine debris for the cause, shocked neighbors question why a woman who depended on hired care, had none when she needed it the most.