Fire officials say crews responded to reports of a tree on fire Thursday night at 1108 North Stover. Fire crews said they responded in approximately eight minutes.
When they arrived on scene, they found the fire had spread to a nearby home and was fully involved. Family members reported they were unable to contact the person inside the house.
As firefighters worked to put out the fire, crews went inside and located the person. They were pronounced dead on scene.
TRAGIC: @VisaliaFire says a person died after a fire that started in a tree spread to their home last night. Cause is under investigation, but neighbors think it may have been fireworks. @ABC30 pic.twitter.com/DoKqjd0xY6— Brian Johnson (@BrianABC30) July 5, 2019
Neighbors in the area reported seeing an illegal firework strike the tree before it erupted in flames and police are investigating reports of fireworks starting the fire, but they could not confirm on Friday afternoon.
"I really feel for him, I really do, it's hard," said Lupe Flores about the man who was found dead. Neighbors believe the man was in his 80s.
She lives next door and her nephew was burned on his shoulder while moving her car away from the flames.
She says the man was nice and well-liked, and she pleaded to others about using illegal fireworks in the area.
"Don't do it because you never know what's going to happen to you or your family, I have grandkids and would hate to lose them," she said.
Gil Rios knew the victim well, as both had lived in the neighborhood for decades.
"It hurt me because I've known him for a long time, and he's a good man and didn't deserve to go like that," Rios said. If it was illegal fireworks that started the fire, he said he hopes the person responsible comes forward.
"Somebody got out of hand doing their thing and it was illegal, and it cost the life of a good friend and that's wrong, that's very very wrong."
Fire officials say 22 personnel responded to the fire.
Visalia Fire Department Fire Investigators, Tulare City Fire Department Fire Investigators, and the Visalia Police Department are working together to determine the cause of the fire.
If you have any information about the incident, you are urged to contact Detective James Cummings with the Visalia Police Department at 559-713-4722.