SAN JOSE, Calif. - It was a bittersweet gathering Friday afternoon for family, friends and neighbors at the Golden Wheel Mobile Home Park as they tried to put the past behind them.
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Many people in the close-knit community were heartbroken after one of the park's mobile homes caught fire in mid-August, killing three people -- 62-year-old Them Bui, his niece 10-year-old niece Uyen Tran, and her 10-year-old best friend Linda Van, who was visiting at the time of the tragedy.
Neighbors reported hearing a series of loud explosions before the flames broke out, trapping the three victims inside. The home was destroyed. Officials believe it was an accidental fire related to the use of a kitchen appliance.
Todd and Cindy Su, co-owners of Advantage Homes, one of the Bay Area's largest manufactured home building companies, heard about the fire and immediately sprang to action. Within a week of the tragedy, the couple committed to building a new home for the two families that lived under one roof.
Bui's widow, Tieng Tran, was stunned by the generosity and outpouring of the community, as were Canh Tran and Thoa Phan, the parents of one of the two girls lost in the devastation. The keys were handed over to them Friday afternoon.
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The new home is estimated to be worth more than $250,000. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms make up the 1,400 sq. ft. structure. Prominent Southern California businessman (and Bay Area winemaker) Kieu Hoang, covered the cost of cleaning up the site before work began.
Recently, volunteers with the American Red Cross went door-or-door in the mobile home park, checking the status of every known smoke detector on site. Officials hope to expand this "safety check" program to similar neighborhoods in the coming year.