SANTA ANA, Calif. — Two people were killed and five others were injured, including a firefighter, in an early morning fire Wednesday at a group home for developmentally disabled women in California, authorities said.
The blaze broke out about 5:45 a.m. in a residential neighborhood of Santa Ana, according to Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Steve Concialdi.
The caretaker, a 71-year-old woman, was in the kitchen preparing food for the day when a smoke alarm went off, Concialdi said. She found a mattress on fire in one of two front bedrooms, and the flames quickly spread to the rest of the house, he said.
The caretaker was critically injured while attempting to rescue residents, sustaining burns to her face and arms, and had to be rescued from the house herself by firefighters, Concialdi said.
Three other women, between 30 and 60, were hospitalized with serious injuries — possibly smoke inhalation — and one firefighter was treated at a hospital for burns to his hand from flames that ate through his protective glove.
Arriving firefighters found the house and its garage consumed in flames. At least 50 firefighters from multiple agencies knocked down the fire in about half an hour.
Two women, 48 and 52, were killed. One was found in her bed and another was discovered on the floor next to a bed, Concialdi said.
Neighbor Hugo Montes, 35, was getting into his truck to go to work when he heard a smoke alarm going off two houses down. He said he went to investigate and saw smoke coming from a bedroom near a patio.
The window was slightly ajar so he wrenched it open and dragged out the mattress that was on fire, but by that point "the flames were spreading to the wall," Montes said. The caregiver was also in the room trying to beat out the fire with a blanket, he said.
"I told her to get everyone out. She was just in shock. She looked at me and couldn't say a word," he said.
Montes then ran to his house to get a hose and call 911. By the time he got back a few minutes later, the house was fully engulfed in flames and the caregiver had rescued two other residents and was outside pacing.
When he asked her if there was anyone else inside, she pointed inside and held up two fingers, he said.
"She was walking in circles, walking in circles in the driveway. She wasn't screaming, she was quiet but just crying and crying," he said. "I felt helpless. I wanted to do more than I could."
Firefighters rescued one other woman, he said.
The address is known as Mary's Home and licensed for the care of up to six people with developmental disabilities, according to the state's Community Care Licensing Division online database.
The single-story, four-bedroom home was completely destroyed.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation.