Fatal blaze: 'It was just a raging fire; it was horrible,' neighbor says

A house fire that claimed the life of a 69-year-old woman and injured two others Saturday night grew to a deadly strength very quickly, according to a neighbor.

The woman, identified by Los Angeles County coroner’s officials as Irmhild Marcaccio, died at the hospital of smoke inhalation.

Two others, her son and daughter-in-law, were hospitalized with minor burn injuries. An animal control officer was also reportedly called for a dead dog.

Just after 9 p.m. on Saturday, Burbank resident Rena McCann heard a loud bang coming from her next-door neighbor’s house and ran outside.

Her neighbor’s house – located in the 900 block of Evergreen Street – was fully engulfed in flames, and inside, Marcaccio could be heard screaming for help, McCann said.

McCann dialed 911 while her husband quickly turned on their garden hose and aimed it over the wall separating their home from their neighbor’s.

At that point, the flames were already burning several feet above the house.

“It was just a raging fire; it was horrible,” McCann said Monday morning outside her Burbank home.

After about two minutes, the screaming stopped, she added.

“(The fire) was well on its way before we even knew anything about it,” said Lee McCann, Rena McCann’s brother-in-law.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 9:21 p.m., and arrived shortly thereafter, according to Deputy Fire Marshal Jorge Martinez.

The blaze was knocked down in roughly 40 minutes by 18 firefighters. Equipment included three engines, a truck and a rescue ambulance, he added.

Firefighters pulled Marcaccio out of the house, and performed CPR while transporting her to the hospital, where she died.

The loss is currently estimated at $300,000 to the structure and $50,000 to its contents, according to Burbank Fire Battalion Chief Steve Briggs.

Upon firefighters’ arrival, Marcaccio’s son and daughter-in-law were attempting to reenter the home because Marcaccio was trapped inside, Martinez said.

The McCanns said the house, which Marcaccio had been renting for more than two decades, had not had electricity for months, though officials could not confirm this.

Six weeks ago, Marcaccio moved back home after roughly five months in rehabilitation following hip replacement surgery, Rena McCann said. Around the time of Marcaccio’s surgery, her son had moved into the home to help take care of his mother, she added.

When Marcaccio returned home, Rena McCann supplied an electrical cord to her neighbor, which was enough to power a television, a light and Marcaccio’s medical equipment.

The family used candles for additional light, the McCanns added.

But on Friday, Rena McCann said, Marcaccio’s son told her they no longer needed the power because their electricity would be turned back on the next day.

According to Rena McCann, it never was.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

On Monday, a chain-link fence had been constructed to wrap around the charred one-story house located on tree-lined Evergreen Street. Burnt books and broken furniture was piled in the front lawn, just feet away from several bouquets of flowers that had been left by residents.

Just before noon, a city van pulled up to drop off a home-delivered meal for Marcaccio. The driver left after Lee McCann told him about Saturday’s fatal blaze.

“It’s just a tragedy that she had to lose her life,” Rena McCann said.

-- Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek


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