Woman Who Died in Hayward Hills Fire Was Living in Piles of Debris

Firefighters said hoarding conditions were so severe they had trouble even getting into the home to fight the blaze and reported as many as 15 cats were on the property.

Updated 8:15 p.m.

By Bay City News Service

A 77-year-old woman who was injured when an electrical fire broke out at her Hayward Hills home on Sunday has died, a Hayward fire captain said.

The Hayward Fire Department responded to a single-story home in the 3800 block of Arbutus Court in unincorporated Hayward just before noon after neighbors reported seeing smoke coming from the residence, fire Capt. Thor Poulsen said.

The neighbors tried to break into the home through a front door and the garage, but were blocked by items piled against the entryways, Poulsen said.

Firefighters eventually made it into the home to discover that the woman living there, later identified by the Alameda County coroner's bureau as 77-year-old Lorraine Carvalho, had apparently been hoarding items in the home, Poulsen said.

He said there were stacks of debris as high as 3 feet against the door and throughout the house.

Carvalho was found face-down and unresponsive in the living room, with second-degree burns to her legs and arms, Poulsen said.

She was taken to Eden Valley Medical Center in Castro Valley, where she was put on life support with the hopes she would stabilize and could be brought to the St. Francis Memorial Hospital burn unit in San Francisco, Poulsen said.

However, she succumbed to her injuries at the hospital later that day.

Five cats perished in the fire, and 10 other cats were found outside the home. Alameda County Animal Control officials have taken the surviving cats, according to Poulsen.

The fire appears to have started near a living room wall where there were overloaded electrical outlets, he said.

Fire crews had to dig through trash to find the source of the blaze, Poulsen said.

Poulsen said the house was in a deplorable condition, with human and cat feces throughout the house, as well as maggots and rodents. There was so much trash and debris in the home that there was no space to walk around, he said.

Cecil Robertson, who lives two lots away, said Carvalho and her husband were already living on the block when he moved to Arbutus Court more than 35 years ago.

More than a decade ago, Carvalho's husband passed away and she continued to live at the home, with a weekly visit from a caretaker who picked her up outside the house to go grocery shopping, Robertson said.

Robertson said he noticed that other than the shopping trips his neighbor rarely left except for Raiders and A's sporting events, for which she apparently had season tickets.

He said there were numerous cats roaming her property, and in previous years she would feed birds, which attracted large groups of pigeons to the neighborhood.

As of late Tuesday morning, Robertson said he didn't know of any memorial or funeral plans for Carvalho.

Copyright © 2012 by BayCityNews, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of BayCityNews, Inc. is prohibited.

Carly February 20, 2013 at 03:20 PM
She must not have had any children.


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