BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — He’d been gone for 30 minutes, tops. Rupert Meda had driven to a home improvement store to buy parts for his sprinkler system. He returned to find his tiny house on 32nd Street engulfed in flames, his wife of 40 years, Rosemary, still inside. But not just Rosemary — their 10-year-old grandson, Nathan, as well.
Grandmother and grandson perished together.
Now, along with the grief and every other emotion that comes with sudden, unforeseen, unfathomable tragedy, is this: Why? How?
The Medas are waiting for the Bakersfield Fire Department to complete its investigation, but in the meantime they’ve picked up some clues from neighbors.
Fernando Meda, who lost his mother and his nephew in the fire, said all signs point to a gas explosion.
“One of the neighbors said that the fire was coming out of the ground,” he said. “It’s all hearsay. We were trying to talk to the fire department this morning. They said they still don’t have a cause. What caused it or how it started. They’re still investigating.”
Meda said his 58-year-old mother used a wheelchair and was bedridden, having undergone knee replacement surgery on both legs — and after reinjuring herself had been scheduled to have a third knee replacement Monday. Meda is certain her 10 year old grandson did all he could to protect her when the 460-square foot house — — built in 1930 and sided with cedar shingles — burst into flames.
“My nephew had a big heart,” he said. “If you knew Nathan, he had a huge heart. He wouldn’t have left her alone, even if my mom pushed him out. He still would have said, ‘No, Nana’ — they called her Nana. So he wouldn’t have left her — he would have gone back. Little hero.”
When firefighters were finally able to enter the structure, they found them, grandmother and grandson, together in the house’s single bedroom.
Within 48 hours, the house’s front yard fence was decorated with flowers, balloons and candles — so many candles, in fact, another, much smaller fire broke out, necessitating another call-out by the fire department.
Now, except for balloons bumping occasionally in the breeze, it’s quiet and Rupert Meda is alone in his grief.