Arson investigators work to find cause of fatal San Jose mobile home fire

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South Bay fire arson investigators are working to determine the cause behind a mobile home park blaze that killed a 22-year-old man.

Fire investigators used a large ladder truck to take high-angle pictures showing the burn pattern. They hope to study that patter to see where this fatal fire began, and then, how it began. All day Friday, county arson task force investigators combed through the torched shell that was a mobile home on Hermitage Drive.

“Virtually any fire inside a mobile home is gonna destroy that mobile home. It’s a question of, can we get all the people out?,” said captain Mitch Matlow of the San Jose Fire Dept.

Around 4:45 p.m. Thursday, frantic moments when 22-year-old Minh Ho thought his nine-year-old niece was still inside. Neighbor Ron Hrvatin says surrounding neighbors tried to help, but actually hurt the flawed search effort.

“Other neighbors were breaking windows, and they were breaking all the windows. And as soon as they broke all the windows, the smoke started coming so that I couldn't’t breath anymore and I had to walk away from there,” said Ron Hrvatin, who lives a block from the sight of the blaze.

Arriving firefighters tried to vent, enter, and search the property, but a roof collapse forced a defensive firefight from the outside.

“All mobile home fires tend to burn very quickly, because of the type of construction…They’re smaller, lighter-weight than in standard construction. And they tend to be drier than standard construction,” said Matlow.

The combination proved fatal for Ho, who was found dead outside a door on an elevated walkway..

“I just wish I knew there was a man in there, I could have helped him a little more,” said Hrvatin.

State law does not require mobile homes to have smoke detectors, and this one did not. But the Red Cross along with 4th district councilman Lan Diep will do free smoke detector installations at the Casa del Largo mobile home park in North San Jose.