PASADENA >> An elderly woman died in a house fire in Pasadena Friday morning despite a neighbor’s “heroic” efforts to rescue her, authorities said.
Neighbors called 911 at about 8 a.m. after noticing smoke coming from the two-story home in the 300 block of Redwood Drive, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
A neighbor tried to rescue the trapped woman, but was driven back by the intense house fire. The man, who is in his 40s, suffered apparently minor burns from the fire but declined to be taken to a hospital.
Firefighters arrived to find flames rising from the home, officials said. Neighbors told firefighters that an elderly woman who lived alone at the home had been heard yelling for help from within, officials said.
“A neighbor who was walking by, heard a female screaming inside and saw light smoke coming from the rear of the structure,” Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington said in a written statement. “After recognizing there was a fire, the neighbor heroically made entry through the front door and attempted to pull the elderly resident to safety.
“He was met with tremendous heat and a wall of fire in the room she was lying in. The victim was pulled out of the fire room, but not before the neighbor sustained minor burn injuries,” Washington said.
Pushed back by the flames, the man called out for help from other members of his family, who rushed to try to help as well.
“Despite being driven out of the building by smoke and heat, and he made a second heroic attempt to rescue the victim by running inside again, placing himself in even greater peril,” according to Washington. “Even though the neighbor made great effort in attempting to rescue the victim, the fast moving fire quickly consumed both the victim and interior of the structure.”
Firefighters found the woman in the home as they worked to extinguish the flames, Derderian said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Los Angeles County coroner’s investigators had yet to identify the victim Saturday. The identification process was expected to be delayed due to the charred condition of the body, officials said.
But the elderly woman believed to be the home’s lone resident remained unaccounted for Friday afternoon.
Fire investigators identified multiple possible causes of the fire, but had yet to isolate the specific cause.
Overloaded wiring, excessive use of extension cords and power strips, an electric heater, and electric blanket, candles and smoking materials were all discovered in the roo
Investigation into the fire cause identified overloaded wiring, excessive use of extension cords and power strips, a portable heater, electric blanket, candles and smoking materials in the room of origin, fire officials said.
“Due to potential failures of so many items, the cause has yet to be determined,” Washington said. “There is no indication of foul play.”
The bottom floor of the two-story home is partially underground, which contributed to “very challenging” and “very stubborn” fire, Derderian said. Firefighters declared the fire “knocked down” about 20 minutes after it was reported.
Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to any other nearby homes or vegetation.
Derderian said the involved home sustained, “a significant loss, if not a total loss.”
The deadly fire remains under investigation by a newly-formed multi-agency arson task force comprised of investigators from Pasadena and other area fire departments.
— Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales