A 39-year-old woman who was inside her Magnolia Avenue home when it burst into flames was pronounced dead after being transported to the hospital by emergency personnel Monday afternoon.
The Monrovia Fire Department responded to a call shortly before noon and arrived to find a kitchen fire had erupted inside a back residence on the 100 block of North Magnolia Avenue.
Firefighters had trouble getting into the home because “pack rat conditions” made it difficult to move around, Monrovia Fire Chief Christopher Donovan said.
“It took a bit of effort for the firefighters to get access because of the pack rat conditions,” Donovan said.
Firefighters had to clear debris and cut a hole in the roof to release the heavy smoke before they could go inside the small home, consisting of a kitchen and small living area, behind an 1887 Victorian near the intersection of Magnolia and Foothill Boulevard.
The woman was found unconscious by firefighters, Donovan said.
“Firefighters were able to carry her out and began administering first aid,” he said.
The woman was then transported to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Donovan said the cause of death was likely smoke inhalation but the final cause won’t be determined until coroners conduct an autopsy.
A cat was also found dead inside the home and removed by a Monrovia Police Department Animal Control officer.
The woman's name was being withheld by authorities until her next of kin could be notified, Donovan said.
Arson investigators were on scene and investigating the cause of the blaze “just because of the nature of the fire,” Donovan said. A news release sent out by city spokesman Dan Bell described the blaze as an "electrical fire," and Bell confirmed in an interview that arson has been officially ruled out.
The fire itself only caused was knocked down within 10 to 15 minutes, Donovan said. Damage to the structure caused by the fire is estimated at $30,000, with approximately $5,000 in damage to property, according to Bell.
People inside the front home reported the blaze to authorities, he said.
Larry Williams, who lives in the home in front of the small unit that caught fire, said the woman had been living on the premises for about five years. He described her as reserved but friendly.
“She was just kind of quiet,” Williams said. “We were just friends and lived together.”
Williams said he cooked dinner for the woman Sunday night. He acknowledged that the home was cluttered and said the mess may have prevented her escape.
“She probably had trouble, I think, trying to get out,” he said. “Poor thing.”