A 3-year-old girl apparently left alone in a second-story Glendale apartment and a man who tried to rescue her were killed in a fire Thursday while the child’s mother watched helplessly from the sidewalk.
The victims were identified as Nicole Marquez and Francisco Vega Corral, 38. The fire started at 11:23 a.m. in the 11-unit apartment complex at 1011 Western Ave., several blocks east of the Burbank border, a Glendale Fire Department spokesman said.
The girl apparently was asleep in the bedroom when the fire erupted in the living room. Corral collapsed in the hallway after charging across the living room in a fruitless attempt to find the girl. Both died of smoke inhalation, said Chris Gray of the Glendale Fire Department.
Officials said that the fire was accidental and that they are still investigating. The old, pink stucco-and-wood structure appeared sound and free of safety hazards, Gray said.
The fire, which was confined to the apartment occupied by the child, set off a smoke alarm, fire officials said.
A witness who refused to identify himself said the child’s mother, Caroline Rodriguez, 23, was working as a cleaning lady in the Needle Bar on San Fernando Road, just across a back alley from the apartment, when the fire started.
He said Rodriguez ran back to the apartment crying for help, and Corral responded by racing up the stairway and into Rodriguez’s apartment.
Benito Rodriguez, 22, the apartment’s manager but no relation to the victim’s mother, said that Corral was a first-floor resident of the building, and that Caroline Rodriguez was a single mother who lived with her daughter and another woman upstairs.
Meanwhile, Craig Foster, 21, who was working at a nearby factory, said he smelled smoke and called the Fire Department.
Foster said that when he reached the scene, Caroline Rodriguez was at the entrance to the building and was exchanging frantic screams in Spanish with Corral, who was already on the second floor.
Flames reached 15 to 20 feet out of the second-floor window, Foster said, and the blaze severed a power line 10 feet from the window.
“When the power line hit the asphalt, the sparks started going everywhere,” Foster said. “It was like the Fourth of July.”
Foster and co-worker Michael Fadale said they tried to talk to Caroline Rodriguez and Corral.
“We didn’t know what to say,” Fadale said. “We couldn’t understand what they were saying. They were panicking and we couldn’t understand the language. We tried to establish communication, to tell him to get out, but it didn’t work.”
As the sirens of fire trucks sounded in the distance, Fadale said, the voice inside the building began to fade.
The girl’s mother was taken to the Glendale police station for counseling and later returned to her apartment, police spokesman Dean Durand said.
Gray estimated the damage at $50,000, adding that fire units from Glendale and Burbank put out the fire in about 20 minutes.