An elderly woman was killed Wednesday morning by flames that swept through a mobile home in San Juan Capistrano.
Orange County fire officials said late Wednesday that the body taken from the dwelling after the fire was so badly charred that positive identification would have to await medical examination and notification of next of kin. They said the cause of the blaze was listed as smoking in bed.
At least one neighbor tried to get into the dwelling but was turned back by the heat. Nearby residents said the home was owned by Ethel Samuel, believed to be in her late 60s and partially disabled. They said she lived alone and described her as a "chain smoker."
The fire started just before 9 a.m. in Unit 76 of the San Juan Mobile Estates, 32302 Alipaz St., according to Battalion Chief Mike Ahumada.
Saw the Flames
One neighbor, Ina Claire Paulson, said she saw the flames and tried to get in the front door but "it was just too hot." Another resident, Al Arps, said he used a garden hose to wet down nearby structures until firefighters arrived.
Fire Capt. Matt Vadala said the blaze apparently started in the back bedroom where the body was found. He said the home was considered a total loss and that it was valued at about $60,000, not including contents. A smaller mobile home several feet to the rear sustained minor damage.
Ahumada said that his department has, for the last two months, been in the process of urging mobile home owners to install smoke detectors.
"I believe this one had a detector," he said, "but we don't know if it worked."
The first alarm was received at 8:53 a.m. and the blaze was under control by 9:11, Vadala said.