Stockton Police Investigate Deadly Apartment Fire

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STOCKTON -- One person is dead after a fire erupted in a downtown Stockton apartment complex Monday morning.

Lea Kemperman would much rather be inside her apartment, but today, she's wrapped in Red Cross blankets.

"We couldn't get out. It started turning into black smoke at the door, so we stood at the window, the fire department had to get us out by ladder," Kemperman said.

Firefighters rescued her and about 15 others at the Avenue Inn apartments just before 7 a.m.

Firefighters found one person dead inside the L-shaped apartment complex on E Miner Avenue and N Hunter Street. Residents like Kemperman said it was only a matter of time.

"I had a premonition that was going to happen," Kemperman said.

The building was made in the 1920s. She said residents lived with no central heating or air. Stockton Police also had a code enforcement investigation open at the building. Kemperman said there were always transients in and out of the building.

"They break into rooms, they sleep in corners, I find hypodermic needles. I find other things, booze bottles and stuff, so it's just not a good environment," Kemperman said.

Fire investigators believe this may have been arson, because there were several points of ignition inside the complex. Whatever the cause of the fire may be, two things are for certain -- one person is dead, and the residents here now have no place to call home.

"People lived there for a while but it's paycheck to paycheck. It's the end of the month, and people don't have money anymore. These are not wealthy people. It's going to be really hard for people to pick up and get going again," Kemperman said.