Woman and grandson die in central Bakersfield house fire

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The house was only 463 square feet, so it burned quickly. The fire, which started at about 4 p.m. Thursday, claimed a woman and a boy.

Family members say 58-year-old Rosemary Meda was bedridden, having recently undergone knee replacement surgery on both legs. At least she had her 10-year-old old grandson there to help her that day. When the fire broke out in the tiny one-bedroom house, relatives speculate, the boy raced to a different part of the house to fetch her wheelchair. But by the time he returned to get her, the smoke was too thick. The house — built in 1930 and sided with cedar shingles — went up like a tinderbox.

When firefighters were finally able to enter the structure, they found them, grandmother and grandson, together in the bedroom.

“Our crews were able to get in there and do a primary search,” said Deputy Chief Kevin Albertson of the Bakersfield Fire Department. “Upon that primary search, they found an approximately 60 year old female and an approximately 10 year old male that had died from their injuries from the fire.”

One neighbor, who gave his name only as Jose, had what would seem to be a vital clue to the fire’s cause. He said he heard an explosion.

“We were all here when suddenly we heard this sound like an explosion, like gas, and we noticed all the flames, a lot of flames,” he said, in comments translated from Spanish. “The firefighters got here quickly but even so, they were still not able to do much. ” 

The fire was so hot neighbors across the street could feel the heat against their faces. Some moved their cars down the street for fear they’d singe their paint — or worse.

One woman, who lives in the apartment complex right across 32nd Street, which is as narrow as an alleyway, asked that her name not be used.

“It was poppin’, it was goin’, the electricity poles were goin’ right there,” she said. “So pretty dangerous, pretty scary.”

The boy’s father had dropped off his son at the grandmother’s house and was on his way to Las Vegas, according to relatives, and the grandfather was away at the time.

So many questions left unanswered. What caused the fire? Why didn’t the boy flee, assuming he had the opportunity? On that latter point we may never have an answer. 

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