STOCKTON — An early morning house fire in Stockton left two people dead Friday.
“The crackling of the wood. The fire, that was kind of eerie,” neighbor Waleska Gonzales said.
Gonzales was fast asleep, when suddenly, she heard a desperate cry for help.
“He kept screaming, ‘Help me, help me, I’m blind,’ And that’s what woke me out of my sleep,” Gonzales said.
She looked out her window Friday morning and saw her elderly, blind neighbor inside the burning home, near the second story window. She jolted out of bed and called 911.
“I didn’t believe it was actually happening. And the fear of knowing that there are people in there. Are they out?” Gonzales said.
By 4 a.m., firefighters arrived, and found the home off Vine and Madison Streets, covered in flames. They spotted the man, who had made it out to the roof, and scrambled to get him out.
“These are extremely difficult. When you’re carrying down people form ladders from the second floor, it’s exhausting. Couple that with extinguishing the fire, and the fire being so stubborn, we have been working our crews through rehab on a faster rotation based upon on the physical labor and need for this specific fire,” Stockton Fire Division Chief, Ken Johnson said.
Crews eventually guided the man outside his home, and took him to San Joaquin General Hospital.
“He is the person who gave us information that there were more victims in the building,” Chief Johnson said.
Then a second rescue mission — Only this one ended in tragedy.
“Later on from the upstairs, they brought down the first body of another gentleman. They had him over here on the side for a while. They worked on him, but stopped doing CPR after a while,” Gonzales said.
Minutes later, crews found yet another body inside.
It took 37 firefighters an hour to put out the flames. In the end, there were three victims, two of them dead. Stockton Fire investigators do not know if there were working smoke detectors in the older home, nor do they know what caused the fire.
As for Gonzales, who lives in an even older home, she said witnessing everything unfold was terrifying.
“Watching how quickly that house went up in smoke, that one’s only 10 years younger than ours, so it’s scary,” Gonzales said.