Man Dies, 5 Others Injured in Costa Mesa House Fire

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 75-year-old Costa Mesa man died Wednesday and five other people were injured in an early morning fire that gutted a two-story house, officials said.

The victim's name was withheld pending notification of relatives.

Four people who lived at the residence were treated at hospitals for minor injuries and released. They were identified as Rob Tallman, no age given, Michelle Tallman, 41, Matthew Hart, 39, and Penny Hales, no age given. The Tallmans own the home, authorities said.

A sixth person, Barrett La Tourette, 57, remained at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana with two broken legs. He leaped from a second-story window of the burning house.

About 20 firefighters were called to the blaze in the 2100 block of Colina Vista Court at 2:21 a.m., Costa Mesa Fire spokeswoman Susan Wood.

"When they got there the fire was roaring," she said. "It took them about 30 minutes to contain. The inside of the house was completely gutted, there was nothing left."

She said that all of the injured managed to escape the house before firefighters arrived. One of the victims, Wood said, tried to put out the fire herself but "realized that it was beyond her control" and fled.

Fire officials had not yet determined the cause of the fire, but Wood said it appeared that it started on the first floor of the house. She said investigators were looking into the possibility that a Christmas tree was the source of the blaze.

If it was not the cause, "it sure didn't help the situation," said Wood, who noted that one of the injured people commented that she heard "loud popping" coming from the tree.

One resident, Paul Mazzarella, said the house was "probably a complete loss." He estimated the value of the Spanish-style home, which was built in 1989, at $350,000. Fire officials have not estimated the loss.

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