SAN DIEGO --
A woman's cigarette appears to have sparked a fire that took her life in her El Cajon home on Thursday, fire officials said.
Firefighters said the 40-year-old victim's clothing actually caught on fire and then the flames spread from there. Her family tried to extinguish the flames but had to get out of the house.
"There was a back door to the kitchen, a front door to the house. So, I think that the fire just incapacitated her to the point where she could not make it to the doorway," said Chief Mike Scott of the El Cajon Fire Department.
Just after the fire started, one neighbor said he saw the victim's 10-year-old son tried to run back into the house to save his mother. His neighbor Attila Szilagyi stepped in to help.
"There was too much smoke, too much fire. I grabbed him from going inside the house. I asked him where the person in the house was. He pointed out to a window. So, we ran up to that window and threw a water hose in there to do something, but it was just too late," Szilagyi said.
Witnesses said the house was engulfed within a few minutes and the fire eventually grew into a two-alarm blaze. Thirty firefighters responded to put the flames out. Firefighters said even after they arrived on the scene, the flames continued to grow, keeping them from getting into the house to rescue the woman.
When crews did eventually get the fire knocked down 30 minutes later, and were able to enter the house, they found the woman's body in a back bedroom.
Investigators said the woman was seen by family members smoking just before her clothing caught fire. The home was a total loss. Officials estimated the loss at $300,000. Fire crews managed to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby houses. A trailer home in the driveway was damaged, however.
The 10-year-old son suffered minor burns to his hands.
Firefighters said there were multiple exits to the home and that there were no bars on the windows or doors.
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