Orange County

Mother, Two Children in Critical Condition After San Juan Capistrano Condo Fire

Firefighters responded to reports of "people trapped" in the residence Tuesday morning

A mother and her two young children were hospitalized Tuesday morning in critical condition after firefighters responded to reports of people trapped inside a burning condominium in the southern Orange County community of San Juan Capistrano.

The fire was reported at about 9 a.m. in the 26500 block of La Zanja Street, just west of Camino Capistrano and east of El Camino Real Park.

The critically injured children, ages 16 months and 3 years, were hospitalized with their mother and grandmother, according to fire officials. Details regarding the grandmother's condition were not immediately available.

Other victims suffered "minor injuries," according to the Orange County Fire Authority.

At least 19 people could not return to their homes because of damage. The residence had smoke alarms, but the devices did not have batteries, according to investigators.

A man who identified himself as the godfather of some of the children who lived in the condo said 12 people, all family members, live there.

A cause was not immediately determined.

Neighbors described thick smoke and a quick moving fire that spread from one residence to at least one other. Witnesses reported residents jumping from windows to escape smoke and fire.

"I just heard some screaming outside, 'The house is burning. The house is burning,'" said resident Omar Garcia. "The flame was so big it caught the other house on fire, too."

Garcia entered a back alley as he looked for people to help and noticed residents jumping out a window, he said.

All residents have been located, including a 1-year-old child who was reported missing during the firefight, according to fire officials.

Firefighters also saved a small pet dog.

"Our firefighters did rescue a small little dog, Little Bear, when they were doing (the) secondary search, hiding in the drawer," said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority.

Kathy Vara contributed to this report.

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