Charred furniture and melted toys are all that's left from inside the apartment unit that caught fire, in Merced. It belonged to a family of seven. All was taken away after a fire broke out at 10:29 Tuesday morning, taking the life of a two-year-old boy. Merced Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin explained, “The fire was accidentally started by an older sibling who was playing with a lighter inside the room. Once the fire ignited, he tried to extinguish it.”
He said the five-year-old sibling then left the room and shut the door, to wake his mom. By that time, the bedroom was already engulfed in flames the two year old stuck inside. Emergency crews tried saving the boy, but it was too late. Frank Serna lives across the street. He also tried to help. He explained, “Once I got to the room, I looked and everything was in flames, already there wasn't anything I could do, so I ran back out because I was choking and coughing by that time. I probably would have had time to take the baby out too, but there wasn't the baby. I feel bad, I just wish I could have done more. I wish I could have saved him.”
McLaughlin said it's a tragedy that happens too often.
“Nearly 1/2 of all fires in the U.S. are lit by males under the age of 14. The number 2 cause of deaths from fire in the U.S. are juvenile fires that are started fires,” said McLaughlin.
Everyone else in the apartment were able to get out, safely. The father and three other children weren't home at the time. The family is being assisted by the American Red Cross.
Fire officials say the apartment unit is a complete loss. The two apartment units next it also suffered fire and smoke damage.