The Paradise Hills man made it to the front door of his home before collapsing in their arms, NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.
An elderly man died after a fire ripped through his home in Paradise Hills Tuesday night.
Family members identify the victim as 86-year-old Ralph Nebbling.
The fire started just after 7 p.m. at a home on Utica Drive, where Nebbling had lived for more than 40 years.
The family tells NBC 7 that Nebbling was not in good health and needed oxygen to breath. Still, firefighters say he made it to the front door of his home before collapsing in their arms.
Elizabeth Smith lived next door for 35 years.
“He used to come up and visit my husband. He was very intelligent and very friendly,” Smith said.
Firefighters say first responders gave Nebbling CPR then transported him to the UCSD Medical Center.
Family members, including two daughters and a granddaughter, huddled at the end of the street while they waited for a friend to take them to the hospital.
Investigators say the fire started on the first floor but made it to the second before crews arrived.
The task of putting it out was compounded by the amount of stored clutter in the home.
“A lot of material in the house, a lot of stuff there that could have made the fire even larger then it was,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesman Lee Swanson.
Firefighters estimate the content loss at $100,000.
Neighbors say Nebbling was a collector of many things. Some he sold for profit.
“Through the years, they would have investigators and stuff come and check the backyard because in the backyard he would have hazardous stuff,” neighbor Mario Villasenor said.
The smoke did have an unusual odor, which is what first alerted neighbors. Investigators say they did not find any toxic, illegal or hazardous materials inside
Firefighters are still trying to determine the official cause of the blaze, but say it appears to been caused by an electrical problem in the home.