POSTED: Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 5:29pm
UPDATED: Monday, February 14, 2011 - 11:02am
EL PASO - A man unable to escape a recreational vehicle fire in El Paso's Lower Valley is dead tonight. Neighbors say they woke up to flames and tried to save the man, but it was too late. Now they're criticizing the fire department.
"I thought I was dreaming. [I heard] the screaming, the lady screaming down the street trying to holler for help," Neighbor Frank Villalobos said.
Villalobos woke up and looked out his window to see the RV next door completely in flames. He said the fire was so bad flames were shooting higher than all the houses in the neighborhood. Neighbors, including Villalobos, rushed outside.
"I ran out in my pajamas and tried to help the people turn it out but it was beyond [our control], and the girl tried to pull the guy out but she couldn't rescue him," he said.
A woman who escaped the fire said a man was trapped inside the burning RV, but because the flames were so intense there was very little neighbors could do to help.
"We were throwing buckets of water, and the neighbor had his water hose, but we couldn't touch it. We couldn't touch it," Villalobos said.
Villalobos told us it took firefighters too long to respond considering the fire station was only about six houses away. He said it was at least 10 minutes before a fire truck showed up.
"I was getting ready to run out there myself and wake them up. They were probably asleep," he said.
We questioned the fire department, and they told us it didn't take that long.
"The call came into the 911 center around 6:26 a.m. The dispatch time was 6:27 and 30 seconds. The first unit on scene was there at 6:30 a.m. So it took two and a half minutes from the time they dispatched it to when they got on scene," Battalion Fire Chief Sam Pena said.
Firefighters say they put the fire out within 10-minutes of getting to it. They say inside the burned out RV they found the body of a man who was in his late 20's. It's now the Medical Examiner's job to figure out exactly what killed him.
We're told the woman who escaped the fire is in her 30's, and she was sent to the hospital for breathing in too much smoke.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Firefighters say they did not find smoke alarms in the mobile home.