DANA POINT – One person is dead and another is in critical condition after their home was engulfed in flames early Sunday.
Firefighters arrived five minutes after learning of the fire. They arrived to find a single-story home filled with smoke, with flames curling out of the windows, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone.
An elderly couple was trapped inside the home at 33331 Bremerton St. Personal objects filled the residence, making it difficult for fire crews to move through the home, find the victims and bring them outside.
“There was too much fire,” Stone said. “The whole house was on fire and it just had a lot of personal items that made it very difficult. It hampered our fire fighting efforts.”
A neighbor of 17 years who lived across the street, 49-year-old Walt Linaweaver, said he and other nearby residents voiced concerns to the couple and the city over the amount of stuff in and around the home. He said boxes and filing cabinets climbed to the ceiling inside the home and that plugged-in appliances, car batteries and boxes lined the home’s perimeter.
“It is frustrating that the city of Dana Point has been seemingly unresponsive, or very slow to respond, to the increasing dangers that were pretty visible,” Linaweaver said.
Efforts to reach city officials for comment were unsuccessful.
On Sunday evening, OCFA officials would not identify the pair. However, property records show the owners of the burned home as Jack Pierson Smith and Doris J. Walker.
Linaweaver described the couple as friendly, the woman as a writer and historian, and the man as a collector of things.
“The man and woman were very nice people,” Linaweaver said. “But they were living in dangerous circumstances that could not only hurt them, but could potentially harm other neighbors.”
The elderly man was taken to Mission Hospital and was declared dead. The elderly woman was taken to the same hospital and remains in critical condition.
Stone said after the rescue, firefighters were pulled out of the house and off the roof because of the danger.
The fire took longer than normal to extinguish, with the flames out by 4 a.m.
No other homes caught on fire, but Linaweaver said smoke and ember damage could be seen from the street on at least two adjacent homes.
The amount of damage is unknown, but the home is declared a complete loss, Stone said. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but foul play is not suspected.
By Sonya Quick/ OC Register