The fire was burning so intensely, so dangerously, that within minutes of arriving, firefighters had to back off from the structure.
One resident died inside the South San Jose home on Avenida Espana. Two others escaped -- one uninjured, but the other was taken to the hospital suffering smoke inhalation.
A smoke detector alarm did alert them of the fire and neighbors called for help. While firefighters got there within minutes of the call, at about 12:45 a.m., the house was already engulfed in flames. The roof collapsed shortly after, forcing firefighters to back away and tackle the burning home from a distance.
"When we got here just after 12:40 in the morning, the fire crews arrived and they saw flames shooting out about 40 feet in the air, and when they got out of the rig, they could feel the intense heat. There was somebody who came up right to them and said, 'There's somebody still inside,'" said San Jose Fire Department Capt. Scott Kouns.
Firefighters got the flames under control within an hour. No neighboring homes were scorched, but it then took another hour before they could safely go inside the smoldering house to search for the unaccounted person who was found in a back room.
The coroner has taken the deceased resident away for an autopsy. Investigators will continue to be at the house to determine what caused the fire and why that one person couldn't make it out.