Family, Friends Mourn Man Killed in Fire

5/21/2008 Fresno, CA Ron Stebles spotted the fire that burned down this house from his home nearly two miles away. When he rushed over to help, a woman told him her mother was still inside.

Stebles suffered second degree burns, but managed to save Ruth Wirth. Wednesday afternoon, a fragile-looking Wirth returned to the site where her house once stood.

Family members say they're all overwhelmed with the loss of the home and Wirth's 84 year old husband. Ervin Wirth died, apparently trying to save the home he had lived in since 1963.

Captain Mike Bowman, Cal Fire, says "He was found amongst the property right next to the home and from what we're being told, he was probably making a last ditch effort to protect his property."

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire, but they say it started about a quarter of a mile away in this neighbor's backyard. The houses on each side are still intact, proving just how powerful of a role the wind played in the way this fire moved.

"What we typically see in high wind areas is the fire will start and then the embers from the tall grass will jump itself in clumps and those clumps are on fire and once the wind picks it up, it carries it several hundred feet or more. And that's what happened here," says Captain Bowman.

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