A 69-year-old woman died Friday morning in a house fire in Valley Center, officials said.
The woman, identified as Wilma “P.J.” Gresham, was home alone when the fire broke out shortly after 10 a.m. at 400 N. Hickory Lane, Valley Center Fire Chief Lonnie Tormey said. Her husband saw smoke and flames coming from the house as he returned home and called 911.
Police officers arriving at the two-story, four-bedroom house had to keep the husband from going inside, Tormey said. Smoke alarms were sounding as firefighters arrived.
They entered the house and found Gresham in an upstairs bedroom. She was deceased when firefighters found her, Tormey said. The fire started in a neighboring bedroom.
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“The fire damage is in the one bedroom and into the attic,” he said.
Tormey said he didn’t know whether Gresham was present in the room when the fire started or was simply overcome by smoke and heat.
“She was found in the back bedroom,” he said. “There was a lot of heat and smoke in that room.”
Larry Gresham, her husband, was treated by first responders at the scene. He was not taken to the hospital.
Wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by his three grown children, he walked slowly up and down Third Street near his house, his face red from the ordeal. Friends and neighbors stood in clusters, their faces a combination of grief and shock.
“I can’t believe it,” Sherry Erickson said as she peered out her front door across the street.
Neighbors said Wilma Gresham used oxygen to aid her breathing and required a wheelchair at least part of the time. But Tormey said he had little information about the circumstances of the fire as of late Friday morning.
The state fire marshal is expected to arrive Friday afternoon to investigate the cause of the fire, he said.
Tormey said it’s the first fatal fire in Valley Center in several years.
“I can’t remember the last one off the top of my head,” he said.