The caregiver of a group home in Santa Ana for adults with disabilities, tried to go back into a burning home to save her patients she affectionately called "her kids," according to neighbors and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).
"When our firefighters were here she kept on trying to run back in," said Steve Concialdi, a spokesman for the OCFA. "She really has a great heart."
Two women, 48 and 51, were killed Wednesday morning in the fire that spread through the single-story, four-bedroom house described by fire officials as a "licensed group home" known as Mary's Home in the 2100 block of North Hathaway Street about 5:45 a.m.
"We had to get her out of the house she kept saying, 'Save my kids, save my kids.' Those kids were anywhere between (their) 30s and 60s," Concialdi said. "It rapidly grew and there was nothing anyone could do."
It was determined the cause of the fire was likely a faulty "personal electronic device" that was plugged into the wall in one of the bedrooms. Firefighters said late Wednesday morning the fire likely started in a bedroom.
"I called 911, I had the phone in one hand, the water house in the other hand, trying to (put out the fire. ) Nobody was around," neighbor Carmen Battista said.
One of the deceased victims was found in a bed. The second deceased victim was found in another room, according to fire officials.
Four other people, identified as group home patients and the caregiver, were injured in the fire, reported just after 5:30 a.m., according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
"I gotta thank God because I know it was two people but it could have been more, it could have been more," Battista said.
The caregiver suffered second degree burns to her face and was expected to remain overnight at the hospital, according to the Western Medical Center.
"It was shocking -- I don't know -- I don't know how i feel right now," said Jean Camacho, who identified herself as the caregiver's daughter.
"I'm heartbroken, because the other two passed," said Julie Guzman, a neighbor. "They didn't have a chance."
There were smoke alarms in every room of the home, which firefighters believe prevented more fatalities. The group home operators also routinely performed fire drills, which are required by state law for licensed care facilities, according to fire officials.