Neighbor saves blind resident from Point Dume Club fire

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The 15-foot flames of the fire were blowing sideways at one point because of high winds. No one was hurt.

By Caroline Thomas/Special to The Malibu Times

A blind resident of the Point Dume Club mobile home park was rescued from her burning home by a neighbor Friday morning.

Richard and Ginette Mendez’s two sons, Cruz and Luc, smelled something burning as they were getting ready to leave for a weekend trip. The family saw smoke pouring out of a house one street over and, as Richard Mendez ran to the home, his wife called 911.

Mendez said he luckily found the front door open and looked and saw that smoke had filled the home. He could hear the fire crackling. “I yelled into the house, ‘Is anyone in here?’ and I was shocked when I heard an older lady saying, ‘I’m in here and I’m blind,'” Mendez said in a phone interview this weekend. He said he knew at that point that he had no choice but to go in.

Mendez walked into the pitch-black smoke and found Veda Anderson, 77, standing at the far side of the front room and carried her out to safety. Veda Anderson lives in the home with her daughter, Veda Kaplan, and Kaplan’s three children.

Mendez and two other neighbors found hoses and started watering the sides of the fire, hindering the spread to adjacent homes. The home was completely engulfed in flames when the Fire Department arrived and no belongings could be saved. Strong offshore winds fueled the electrical fire that caused the total loss of the mobile home.

Local firefighter Captain Dennis Cusino said when they arrived “the whole house was on fire and flames were coming out of all of the windows.” He estimated the winds were blowing at 25 mph to 30 mph, and said that the winds were causing the 15-foot flames to blow sideways.

The fire was cause by an electrical failure in one of the rooms of the home. Veda Kaplan, in a phone interview Tuesday evening, said her son had just moved into the room the day before and they had used the outlets for the first time. He had slept in the room that night. Kaplan said she was at a talent show Friday morning at Webster Elementary School where one of her children attends school when she decided to go home to check on her mother who was alone. She did not know at that time about the fire.

“I followed a fire truck in … I thought my mom had a heart attack,” Kaplan said.

She then saw a friend running toward her who told her what had happened. “It was a big awakening,” Kaplan said. “It could have been so much worse.”

“We are blessed,” she added.

Nineteen firefighters from Malibu and Calabasas were on hand to help extinguish the flames. “These guys did an excellent job of saving the surrounding homes,” Cusino said.

The proximity of the mobile homes creates a difficult environment for firefighting-state regulations allow as little as 6-feet separation between structures, 3 feet between fence and home. The two adjacent homes sustained only minor damage, including broken windows, burnt siding and melted rain gutters.

Veda Anderson was transported to Santa Monica Hospital showing signs of hypertension and high blood pressure. She has since been released and is now staying with another daughter in Phoenix, Ariz. Kaplan and her children, who attend three different local schools, are staying temporarily at her ex-husband’s home in Malibu.

The Point Dume Club is organizing donations for the family. For contribution information call 310.457.2111.