– Despite heroic efforts by neighbors, a 98-year-old San Martin
woman and her 73-year-old daughter both remain in critical
condition this morning after a their longtime Llagas Avenue home
erupted in flames Wednesday.
Both women are being treated for burns and smoke inhalation at
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s burn center in San Jose, and
98-year-old Alice Olson’s injuries are considered life-threatening,
according to family members.
SAN MARTIN – Despite heroic efforts by neighbors, a 98-year-old San Martin woman and her 73-year-old daughter both remain in critical condition this morning after a their longtime Llagas Avenue home erupted in flames Wednesday.
Both women are being treated for burns and smoke inhalation at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s burn center in San Jose, and 98-year-old Alice Olson’s injuries are considered life-threatening, according to family members.
“They said (Olson) probably won’t make it,” said Glen Trago, Olson’s grandson and the son of 73-year-old Betty Gardner, the other victim in the fire. “(Olson) was in the house too long.”
Gardner suffered burns to 30 percent of her body, including her face, but is expected to recover from the blaze that erupted at 10:28 a.m. Wednesday, Trago said – largely thanks to fast-acting neighbors who broke windows and pulled the woman from her burning home.
“I was sleeping and woke up hearing someone yelling ‘Help!’ and when I got up all I could see were barrels of black smoke coming from the house,” said Dean Rosette, who lives in a trailer behind Olson and Gardner’s home at 13150 Llagas Avenue, about a half block south of the San Martin Post Office.
Rosette, with the help of neighbor Ben Saari, then broke several windows of the home, entered the blazing house and was able to carry Gardner from the smoke and flames.
“I got grandma Betty out and then went to the other window at the front of the house to get grandma Alice, but the smoke was too thick and it was too hot in there,” said an emotional Rosette, whose face, hands and clothes remained smeared with black soot from the fire. “We couldn’t get to her.”
Firefighters from the South Santa Clara County Fire District soon arrived and were able to pull Olson from the home, and she was transported by ambulance to the South County Airport where she immediately was taken by helicopter to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Gardner was taken by ambulance to SCVMC.
Gardner and Olson lived at the home with one of Gardner’s daughters and grandsons, but the two women were the only ones injured in the fire. The young grandson – between 6 and 7 years old – was home when the blaze sparked, but was able to escape the home before the flames grew, according to neighbors, who called 911.
More than eight firefighters and three engines from the SSCCFD along with a county engine from San Jose extinguished the fire within a half-hour and were able to contain the majority of the damage to the northwest corner of the home, which is where Olson was when the fire started, according to Rosette.
“Right now the cause is still unknown,” said Chris Morgan, spokesman for the SSCCFD. “It was accidental in nature, but we haven’t figured out exactly how it started.”
Morgan estimated $200,000 in damage was done to the single-story home.
“There was smoke coming from the chimney and they never use the fire place, and that’s what caught my eye,” Saari said. “I know they had a bunch of ornamental trees inside because they were getting ready for a wedding – maybe those caught fire.”
Saari said the home is owned by one of Gardner’s daughters, and that the family has lived in the house for several generations.