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Man dies in small trailer fire
Blaze broke out at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday
A man living in a small travel trailer on Road 180, about half a mile from Avenue 184, died this morning when fire engulfed the trailer.
Nearby residents said they saw smoke coming from the 14-foot trailer but by the time they got to it the fire was too large to get near. They did not know if the man that lived there was inside or not when the fire broke out at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Tulare County Fire Battalion Chief Claudia Whitendale said the first fire engines on the scene reported the trailer was fully involved in flames. She said initial reports indicated that a person may have been in the trailer and the county did a “full structure response.”
She did say that neighbors may have used a garden hose to slow the spread of the fire, but even with that the trailer was burned substantially. “That’s very light-weight construction,” she said of the trailer.
Firefighters discovered the body after the fire was extinguished. Whitendale could not say where the body was found in the trailer because until the cause was determined, the fire was being treated as a possible crime.
Juanita Arteaga said a former homeless man was allowed to live in the trailer that was located behind a couple of homes at 18626 Road 180 west of Porterville. The trailer was in a farm equipment storage area, but nothing else burned, although the victim’s pickup sustained minor damage.
Arteaga said the man had lived there about a year. His name has not been released.
“I opened the drapes and I saw the smoke. We yelled at him, but got no response,” she said. “It was too hot to get close,” she added.
Another neighbor, Martin Espinoza, said when he looked out he saw flames rising into the sky. “It was already pretty high,” he said of the flames.
He said the man was in his 50s or 60s and did not work on the farm and “kind of kept to himself.” He said he rarely had visitors and was not all that friendly.
He added the man was called Rudy.
The fire was reported controlled at just after 8 a.m. and fire investigators were still on the scene late Tuesday afternoon.
Whitendale said no cause of the fire had been determined. “So far we haven’t found anything that could have caused it,” she said.