'We're going to miss him': Neighbors mourn for man killed in Fresno house fire

Firefighters and family tried but failed to rescue Calvin Rodriguez, who has autism.

Saturday, July 2, 2022
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One man is dead after flames sparked at a home in central Fresno early Wednesday morning.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Neighbors are remembering the man who died in a late night house fire in Fresno's Tower District.

Those who live nearby say the family took care of everyone on the block and now they want to return the favor in their time of need.

"He was a worker and he was very smart and we did consider him a friend and we're going to miss him very much," said Melissa Mellino, who lives next door to where the fire happened.

Mellino describes her next-door neighbor, Calvin Rodriguez, as a friendly man who loved dogs and said hello every time she and her husband came outside.

He had autism, but would help her husband work on the car and knew how to work every piece of landscaping equipment.

Tuesday night when a fire broke out at his home in Fresno's Tower District near Thorne & Olive Ave., she says Calvin was top of mind for everyone.

"As soon as we came outside, everybody was like 'Where's Calvin?' You know, it's our first concern because we knew he would be scared, he'd be confused and maybe wouldn't be able to call out, maybe call for his dad." Mellino said.

Three other people were inside the home when the fire started, including Calvin's dad.

His dad injured himself while trying to break a window and get to Calvin, but was unable to reach him.

Phillip Wallace, another neighbor, rushed inside when he heard Calvin hadn't been found.

"I ran into the house and looked all over for his son until I couldn't breathe anymore," Wallace said.

Dozens of Fresno firefighters arrived and tried to rescue Calvin, but were unable to reach him.

"The layout of the structure, the contents inside, the intensity of the fire just made it too difficult for us to find the victim in time," said Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Kirk Wanless.

Fresno Fire says, so far this year, five people have died in house fires.

At least five people have died in fires each year over the last five years.

Neighbors who live along the street where Tuesday night's fire happened say they're heartbroken.

They say the Rodriguez family is extremely helpful and take care of everyone.

Mellino says the Rodriguez's started mowing her lawn and taking her trash cans to the street when her son was diagnosed with leukemia last year.

Now, she wants to help them in their time of need so she's created a GoFundMe account to raise money.

"We just want to kind of give them a little relief and have them not stressing about money and burial costs and things that nobody should have to worry about, especially such kind people," Mellino said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family.