Fatal Santa Ana fire: Caregiver tried to save disabled residents

A 71-year-old woman who cared for five mentally impaired adults in a Santa Ana group home scrambled to help them Wednesday morning after a smoke alarm warned her the house was on fire, fire officials said.

The caregiver of the four-bedroom group home at 2138 N. Hathaway St. suffered burns to the head and body in the effort, and three of the residents escaped or were pulled out by firefighters.


Two others -- identified as women aged 52 and 48 – were found dead in separate bedrooms.

Plumber Hugo Montes, 35, who lives on the block, said he was leaving for work about 5:30 a.m. when he saw smoke and flames in the house and rushed to help.

He said he heard alarms going off inside, and saw the panicked face of the caregiver as she tried to bat down the flames.

Montes said he pulled a burning mattress out of the house, and rushed to get his garden hose, but the fire spread too fast for it to be much use.

"It was too intense," he said. "I wish I could have done more. I wish I could turn back time and do things differently – probably run back into the house instead of going for the hose."

The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi. He said no foul play is suspected.

Concialdi said the caregiver and surviving residents are being treated at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.

The home is listed as Mary's Home, and is licensed to care for six people.

At one point, 50 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, which was reported at 5:44 a.m. The fire was knocked down at 6:14 a.m., according to the Orange County Fire Authority.