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Elderly man dies in Eagle Rock house fire

December 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
An elderly man was found dead inside a home that burned down in Eagle Rock Friday night. Firefighters said they found pack-rat conditions inside the home, which they say likely contributed to the fire. There was an outpouring of emotion in the neighborhood where the man was well-liked.

Before firefighters arrived around 5 p.m., neighbors rushed to the house fearing their elderly neighbor was trapped inside.

"My brother and I automatically got our water hose and threw water at it and we started to scream his name to see if he could come out," said neighbor Diana Zamora.

Fire officials said they made an aggressive attack on the fire but were hindered by pack-rat conditions inside the home. They made an initial search and rescue attempt and were unable to find anyone inside.

The flames engulfed the house causing the roof and two walls to collapse. The structural danger made it impossible for firefighters to continue their search. Once the flames were subdued, a search and resuce team found the man's body in a back room.

"He's the best man in the neighborhood. He's the best man to know. Anything you needed he was there for you, he would help you," said Linda Shoemake.

Grieving neighbors said the retired railroad worker was in his 80s and everyone looked out for him and his dog.

"If you walked down the street he would stop and talk to you. For Christmas sometimes he would bring our family a big thing of popcorn. It wasn't much but that's all he could afford," said Vanessa Gonzalez.

Neighbors said the man collected things and was often cited because of the crowded conditions at his home.

They did manage to rescue the man's dog. The cause of the fire was still under investigation.


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