Carlsbad house fire victim may have died trying to save his 5 dogs, neighbor says

The two people living at the home were well into retirement, but neighbors said they both used their time helping to feed the homeless

NBC Universal, Inc.

A neighbor tells NBC 7 a man may have died while trying to save five dogs inside his burning Carlsbad duplex over Memorial Day weekend.

Despite a quick response, the fire at 952 Pine Street on Saturday was already at a rolling burn. The smoke and flames could be seen just about anywhere in the neighborhood.

“I could see flames from my yard,“ neighbor Natasha Tia said.

“My 8-year-old saw this thick black smoke from like, 3 or 4 miles away,“ neighbor Peter Reilly said.

“I was on my couch watching TV and I heard a big old bang,” neighbor Dave Salisbuoy said.

Salisbuoy lives in a condo next door. He’s been friends with the two people living in the duplex for 20 years. He says the man who died was 98 years old living in the unit in the back. 

At one point, the man was safe outside, Salisbuoy said.

“He came out then went back in to get the dogs, I guess. Then he collapsed,“ Salisbuoy said.

The property owner is 83 years old. Firefighters say she survived by jumping from a second story window.

Salisbuoy spoke to her on Monday morning.

“She’s doing pretty good. I’m just glad she is OK and the other apartments are OK,“ he said.

Investigators say the fire started on the second floor of the rear structure. They suspect faulty electrical sparked the fire but are still investigating.

By most accounts it was breezy Saturday so keeping the fired contained to just that property proved impossible. Embers came over and burned a sofa in the back of a pickup truck. A condo next door had to be yellow-tagged. The Reitz family, which moved in less than a month ago, is staying elsewhere because of the damage.

NBC 7 spoke to Tommy Reitz the day of the fire.

“Scared. I’m a new daddy. I just wanted to make sure the babies were OK and everybody else was OK too,“ Reitz said.

The Reitzes were not alone. Several neighbors anxiously watched firefighters battle this fire, fearing their home might be next.

 “I was just concerned it was going to move fast and move quickly. It was massive. The fact I could see it from my house, four lots over, was pretty intense,“ Tia said.

Neighbors said four of the five dogs the man who died meant to save, were killed. The duplex is destroyed. The owner  lived here her whole life.

“It was really sad. It was really intense to experience,” Tia said.

The two people living there were well into their retirement, but neighbors said they both used their time helping to feed the homeless.

The owner of the property was treated and released from the hospital. She is staying with relatives.

Contact Us