Two longtime Chowchilla residents were killed after being overcome by smoke inhalation in a structure fire on Humboldt Avenue. The Madera County Coroner’s office identified the men as Orville Arms, 87 and Steven Silva, 65.
The fire occurred 10:30 p.m. April 18.
The 1,600-square-foot wooden frame home was built in the 1950s and sustained major damage.
Chowchilla Fire Chief Harry Turner said the cause of the fire is under investigation but is believed to have started in an occupied front bedroom. There were also no smoke detectors found at the house, he said.
“One occupant, the son of the property owner, got out and was trying to put out the fire with a garden hose, when neighbors called for help. When we got there the two front bedrooms were fully involved and we were told there were two victims still trapped in the house. Our primary objective was to get in as quickly as we could to search the house.
One victim, the 87-year-old, was found on the floor of the kitchen and the other 65-year-old “was found in the bedroom of origin (of the fire),” Turner said.
“If you are asleep you don’t smell smoke,” he said, and people also don’t understand how rapidly toxic smoke from household items burning in a fire can spread and kill. The residents were also apparently attempting to extinguish the fire themselves before they called 911, a common but hazardous practice, according to Turner. The family’s dog also died in the fire.
The home was about a half mile from the Chowchilla fire station, Turner said.
“It was 8 minutes from the time we got the call to when the fire engine arrived on the scene. The (unknown) delay in reporting didn’t help matters any. Any minutes could have helped both the victims and the house. Operable smoke alarms would have also likely changed the outcome,” Turner said.
Turner encouraged all residents to check their smoke alarms, and in the event of a fire get outside as quickly as possible and call 911.