Fresno man was banging on windows begging for help before being burned alive

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Witnesses say a man who burned to death Monday night on a bus was pounding on the windows begging for help before a fire consumed him.

The man identified by friends as Feliciano Franco was well known and liked in the area where he lived for several years. The fire started in the front of the bus and the door was open but firefighters say the victim was stuck near the back and unable to get out of a window.

Firefighters are now confirming what witnesses said right after the bus went up in flames -- the helpless victim was banging on the window begging for help before he died in the fire.

Fire Investigator Don MacAlpine said, "We have every indication to understand that he was alive up to and during the initial part of the fire."

Neighbors say their friend, "Frank" was inside. He was well known in the area and homeless but willing to help anyone who needed it. In return, many reached out to him.

The victim's friend, Madeleine Vasquez, said, "He was always just a nice person. We were always helping him anyway we can. Feeding him, giving him clothes, money when we can."

Neighbors say the victim lived in the neighborhood for about four years, and just the past few months began staying in the bus at the Eastside Church of God with permission from the church. Fire crews aren't sure how the fire began, but it spread fast. Investigators have learned the victim was last seen about a half an hour before the fire started.

MacAlpine said, "He had actually been conversing with a couple of church parishioners that were doing some practice or preparation for upcoming events."

Detectives are now looking at surveillance video that may help them determine a cause or contributing factor. For now, it's unclear why the victim wasn't able to open the window or climb out without help. Neighbors say Frank is in his 40's and generally in good health. Firefighters are looking into every possibility.

MacAlpine added, "There was no real significant disabilities other than perhaps some influencing factors that may cloud his judgment at times."

An autopsy was completed Tuesday. The cause of death has not been revealed but investigators believe it will either be thermal burns or smoke inhalation.
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