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Fresno woman sees burning woman, calls 911. ‘She was burned to the crisp to her back’

Fresno woman describes finding woman on fire

A Fresno, CA woman was taken to the hospital with severe burns to her body after a fire broke out at a duplex on April 13, 2019. The fire department is investigating the cause of the fire.
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A Fresno, CA woman was taken to the hospital with severe burns to her body after a fire broke out at a duplex on April 13, 2019. The fire department is investigating the cause of the fire.

A woman was rushed to the hospital with severe burns to her body after a fire broke out at a central Fresno duplex Saturday morning.

The injured woman was helped around 7:30 a.m. by Diana Garcia, 60, who called 911 after she saw the woman running through an alley screaming for help.

“She was like, ‘Help me, help me, come here, help me, help me,’” Garcia said.

When the woman reached Garcia, she collapsed, Garcia said that’s when she noticed flames on the woman’s back as well as on the back of her Chihuahua dog. The woman’s clothes had burned off, Garcia said.

“She was burned to the crisp to her back ... it’s like, oh, my God,” Garcia said in an interview as fire crews controlled the fire. Garcia said several people in the neighborhood believe the woman is a transient who sleeps on a mattress in an alley behind the duplex, located near Clinton and Bond avenues in a county island. Fresno County Sheriff’s investigators also suspect that the woman is homeless, Lt. Frances Devins said.

Several sheriff’s deputies were on scene interviewing residents.

Fresno Fire Department Deputy Chief Rich Cabral said the department heard reports of the woman possibly being set on fire, but investigators had not determined what led to her injuries.

The woman went into surgery soon after she was brought to Community Regional Medical Center, Devins said. Authorities were still trying to identify the woman.

The fire department tweeted that the dog was being evaluated.

The fire was controlled in half an hour, Cabral said. He added that there was fire in the attic of the duplex, but investigators hadn’t determined whether the fire started inside or outside the units.

“I would not put it past the possibility of a fire to the exterior and then extending to the attic space,” Cabral said.

Garcia described the burned woman as possibly in her 30s. Her hair was also burned.

Laura Gomez, 72, lives in one of the duplex units. She said she heard banging around 7:30 a.m. and her dogs, Freddy and Bear, began growling. Then she heard knocking on her front door. It was the fire department telling her the unit was on fire, she said.

By that point, she realized her living room was filled with smoke. Her fire alarm had not activated.

“Something was telling me not to take a shower,” Gomez said, as she stood with family across the street from the duplex.

Garcia, who found the injured woman, said she was lucky to be in the area. She was going to set up a yard sale at her daughter’s house.

“All I can say is the Lord works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I was meant to be there.”

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a general assignment reporter at The Fresno Bee. He studies journalism at California State University, Fresno, where he once served as editor of the student newspaper. Before that, he was the editor of the Fresno City College student newspaper. He grew up in the central San Joaquin Valley.


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