Two people were killed and five others were injured, including a firefighter, in an early morning fire Wednesday at a group home for developmentally disabled women in California, Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Steve Concialdi told KPCC.
The blaze broke out about 5:45 a.m. in a residential neighborhood of Santa Ana at the 2100 block of North Hathaway Street.
The caretaker, a 71-year-old woman, was in the kitchen preparing food for the day when a smoke alarm went off, Concialdi said. She found a mattress on fire in one of two front bedrooms, and the flames quickly spread to the rest of the house, he said, according to the Associated Press.
The caretaker sustained smoke inhalation and moderate injuries—burns on hands, face and arms, Concialdi told KPCC.
Three other women, between 30 and 60, were hospitalized with serious injuries - possibly smoke inhalation - and one firefighter was treated at a hospital for burns to his hand from flames that ate through his protective glove, AP reported.
“When our firefighters arrived they found a one-story home that was a well involved fire, fire was coming out of the garage and two bedrooms,” Concialdi told KPCC.
About 50 firefighters fought the blaze and extinguished it in a half hour.
Two women, 48 and 52, were killed. One was found in her bed and another was discovered on the floor next to a bed, Concialdi said, according to AP.
All residents of the group home that had been licensed since 2006 were ambulatory and the home conducted fire drills, as well as having a smoke alarm in every room, Concialdi told KPCC.
Neighbor Hugo Montes, 35, was getting into his truck to go to work when he heard a smoke alarm going off two houses down, AP reported. He said he went to investigate and saw smoke coming from a bedroom near a patio.
The window was slightly ajar so he wrenched it open and dragged out the mattress that was on fire, but by that point "the flames were spreading to the wall," Montes said, according to AP. The caregiver was also in the room trying to beat out the fire with a blanket, he said.
"I told her to get everyone out. She was just in shock. She looked at me and couldn't say a word," he said.
Montes then ran to his house to get a hose and call 911. By the time he got back a few minutes later, the house was fully engulfed in flames and the caregiver had rescued two other residents and was outside pacing.
When he asked her if there was anyone else inside, she pointed inside and held up two fingers, he said.
"She was walking in circles, walking in circles in the driveway. She wasn't screaming, she was quiet but just crying and crying," he said. "I felt helpless. I wanted to do more than I could."
The address is known as Mary's Home and licensed for the care of up to six people with developmental disabilities, according to the state's Community Care Licensing Division online database.
The single-story, four-bedroom home was completely destroyed, according to AP.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation.
“We would like to stress for everybody the importance of working smoke alarms,” Concialdi told KPCC. “Smoke alarms alert residents and occupants of smoke and fire and provide critical seconds for them to get out safely.”
Associated Press Writer Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.
With contributions from KPCC's Bianca Ramirez and Jessica Hamlin.