RAMONA — A woman who called 911 screaming for help died in a Ramona house fire early Monday — despite the efforts of three sheriff’s deputies who frantically tried to rescue her, authorities said.
The victim, who was described as elderly and non-ambulatory and who used a wheelchair, had used her cellphone to call for help around 2:30 a.m.
The woman wasn’t able to provide her address but deputies drove around the area until they found the burning home on Telford Lane off Seventh Street, sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies forced open the door and made several attempts to reach the woman — but the house was engulfed in flames.
The deputies “attempted to instruct the elderly female to crawl out of the house” but she apparently was unable to move, sheriff’s Lt. Daniel Vengler said. They retreated from the house and then reentered, trying in vain to reach the victim.
“Deputies entered the houes a third time, crawling along the ground (and) trying to get to the … occupant,” Vengler said. “Again, smoke and flames overwhelmed the deputies, who were forced to leave the house.”
When firefighters from Cal Fire and the Ramona Fire Department arrived, they found heavy smoke and fire coming from the small home, said Cal Fire spokesman Frank LoCoco. Crews had the fire knocked down in about 40 minutes.
He said there were many items inside the home, which provided a “heavy fuel load” for the blaze.
LoCoco said the woman’s two dogs were found safe outside of the home. “The entire house is destroyed,” he said.
The injured deputies were transported to a hospital, where they were treated for smoke inhalation and released.
Investigators with the sheriff’s bomb-arson unit are trying to determine what sparked the blaze but detectives don’t believe it was the result of a criminal act.
“There is nothing suspicious about the fire at this time. What exactly started the fire remains under investigation,” Sgt. Greg Hampton, who leads the unit, said in a statement.
The name of the woman who died has not been released. The Medical Examiner’s Office will identify the body and determine cause and manner of death.