An 89-year-old man living in packrat-like conditions died in a Mt. Washington home fire Friday night. His niece told NBC4 that he was a World War II veteran. Reggie Kumar reports live for Today in LA on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
An 89-year-old World War II veteran was killed in a house fire Friday night in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Francisco Hernandez was living in pack-rat conditions without any working smoke detectors, firefighters said.
Hernandez's death was the ninth fire-related fatality in Los Angeles County for 2014.
"Normally we have 20 per year. One is way too many. But now we're only in February with nine," LAFD Battalion Chief Steve Ruda said.
Hernandez's niece, Maya Ling Hoo, told NBC4 that her uncle was a Purple Heart recipient and rasied his family in Boyle Heights. Hoo rushed to the fire when a neighbor called her.
"I got here like in two minutes and the house was fully engulfed in flames," Hoo said. “My uncle didn’t make it."
Firefighters responded to a fire at 533 West Avenue 44 around 9:45 p.m. Upon arrival, they discovered a 625 square-foot residence and garage engulfed in flames.
Helicopters were deployed to help fight the fire and prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes.
The blaze was extinguished in 40 minutes. Firefighters searched the heavily damaged home and discovered human remains, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
"Probably a little stubborn in his way, his family tried to get him to clean up some of his packrat conditions but unfortunately it probably went to his demise," LAFD Battalion Chief Steve Ruda said.
The common denominator in all the fire-related fatalities of 2014, Ruda said, was that there were no working smoke alarms in any of the homes.
In one instance, a family of four died in a fire. In the other instances, they were all individuals over the age of 90, according to Ruda.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.