Woman confined to wheelchair dies in Hayward fire

Investigators in Hayward are looking for the cause of a house fire Friday morning that killed a woman confined to a wheelchair.
A couple, said to be in their 60's, was able to escape an overnight house fire in Hayward Friday, but a woman confined to a wheelchair was killed.

The first call went in just before 1 a.m. as flames were ripping through the structure. By 4:30 a.m., the fire crews were gone but the damage had been done at Townsend Ave. and Banbury Street, where most of the home had been destroyed. The fire started in the front bedroom, but fire officials are still trying to figure out what started the flames.

Firefighters say the husband smelled smoke and saw the fire in his room. He ran to the garage to get a fire extinguisher, but it was defective and didn't work. He and his wife got out of the house, but the elderly woman was wheelchair-bound and got stuck in a rear bedroom. Firefighters eventually got to her and brought her out to the front, but she died at the scene. The husband was taken to the hospital with chest pains.

Neighbors say the woman lived at the home for several decades but say they rarely saw her over the past 10 years. Fire investigators say it appears the fire started in the front bedroom where the man lived. Several appliances including a mini-refrigerator, a microwave, and stereo equipment were plugged in to the outlets.

"Very tragic, yeah. When I came out here and she was there, I was shocked. I even had to ask someone, 'Did everybody make it?' And he kind of looked this way and no, they didn't," neighbor Louann Lovato recalled/

Firefighters say eight cats and two parakeets lived inside the home. Two of the cats and both birds were found dead. Four ducks, one chicken, more than 12 pigeons, and about eight doves were found alive in the backyard.

Firefighters say the fire does appear to have been electrical, but they are still investigating it to make sure that's the real cause.
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