Neighbors heartbroken over loss of Gustine couple in fire


The flames broke out just after 9:00 Wednesday night at the Green Acres Mobile Home Park in Gustine. It's located off Highway 33 near Linden Avenue.

Friends say the victims were a loving husband and wife who would do anything for their neighbors. Many are devastated by their deaths, but find some comfort in the fact they were together.

Smoke poured from the charred remains of a mobile home in Gustine long after firefighters put out the flames that destroyed it. Neighbors watched, feeling horrified and helpless.

"It was like unbelievable," Alex Quinn said. "You walk out your front door and your neighbors' place is on fire, and you go well where are they?"

Crews later found the bodies of an elderly man and woman inside. Friends have identified the couple as George and Mary Williams. They say George was a Vietnam veteran who recently used money he received for his service to renovate the home.

"George & Mary were the nicest people you'd ever meet," Quinn said. "They just got a new lease on life, and this tragic thing happened."

Firefighters say the home was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived, and there was no chance to save the couple. Witnesses also reported hearing explosions.

Merced County Cal Fire Battalion Chief Gabriel Santos told Action News, "Inside any structure there's numerous items that could explode, but it just tells you the intensity of this fire, when you have items that are exploding, it is extreme fire conditions within that structure itself."

Many neighbors worried the fire would spread throughout the park, but crews managed to protect the rest of the homes.

Neighbor Gloriann Cardoza said, "They did a good job, we were lucky, very lucky."

Still, the pain of losing two friends lingers in this close knit community.

Investigators are still looking into what caused the fire, but they do not suspect any foul play at this point.

Managers at the mobile home park say they're planning several fire safety classes to prevent another tragedy like this one.

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