MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- Authorities in Modesto are investigating the cause of a fire that left one person dead and five people displaced early Monday morning.
Around 4:48 a.m., Modesto and Ceres fire crews responded to an apartment fire at El Casa Verde on Robertson Road.
When crews arrived, they found a fire in a first-floor unit.
A picture taken by a Modesto firefighter shows smoke billowing from the apartment. That was the sight many neighbors, such as Joseph Thompson, woke up to.
“All I saw was smoke when I came out the door,” Thompson said. “It’s a shock and especially the families that have to get maybe pushed out of here, I feel sorry for them right now because I mean they’re gonna need help.”
Modesto Fire Department Division Chief Michael Lillie said when firefighters first arrived they found a man inside the first-floor apartment.
“Unfortunately, the victim did not survive the injuries and died at the hospital,” said Lillie.
The 43-year-old victim has been identified as Abel Maldonado-Olide, according to Stanislaus County’s Coroner’s Office.
Thompson said he believes the friendly neighbor who lived in the apartment was that man.
“Trying to understand English and I was trying to help him along every once in a while when I could,” said Thompson.
Lillie said the bottom unit saw most of the destruction but three other units were also damaged in the blaze, leaving five people without a home.
“It’s the holiday season. It’s really sad that this happened right at the beginning of the holiday season. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Lillie said.
As investigators worked to figure out what caused the fire, Thompson was left with uncertainty and concern.
“[It] also hurts inside but you know there’s only so much you can do as a human being,” said Thompson.
The American Red Cross is working to provide temporary housing for the other families affected.