An early evening fire claimed the life of a longtime Escalon resident on Wednesday night, as efforts to revive the man pulled from a smoky apartment on Baker Street failed.

Kevin McGuire, 42, died as a result of the smoldering fire in his apartment in the Vintage Park complex at 1747 Baker St. in the city. He was the son of Larry and Elaine McGuire of Escalon and a full obituary for him appears on Page A4 of this week's issue.

"We received the call about 8:10 Wednesday night, it came in as a structure fire with a possible victim inside," explained Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello. "Engine 1-1 was first on the scene at 8:14 p.m. and they had heavy smoke showing."

McGuire, who had been sleeping in the apartment, is believed to have been overcome by the smoke.

"They made entry and got a lot of heat, a lot of smoke but there was very little fire that they saw," Mello added of the initial attack. "They started their search and located him in the back bedroom."

McGuire was pulled from the apartment and Escalon Community Ambulance crews worked on him right outside the apartment, which is on the upper floor of the complex.

He was then taken to Oak Valley Hospital in Oakdale but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The fire was called in by McGuire's girlfriend, who lives in the apartment below.

"His son came home with a friend, that's when they saw smoke coming from the apartment," Mello added. "They got a fire extinguisher from the apartment manager but the smoke was so thick, he had to back out."
Fatal Fire - One Dies In Smoky Apartment Blaze
California Department of Forestry fire investigator Dennis Townsend, left, and Escalon Assistant Fire Chief Terry Pinheiro looks for clues on an overturned couch in the living room of an apartment.
Escalon Police also arrived on scene and attempted entry but were forced back. Firefighters, with their gear, were able to get inside within minutes of the call.

"When our guys pulled him out, he was unresponsive," said Mello.

Escalon had 11 firefighters on scene, Salida was called in to assist and Farmington was in Escalon covering the station. Escalon Police assisted at the scene with evacuation of other apartments and with crowd control.

Assistant Fire Chief Terry Pinheiro was back on the scene of the fire Thursday morning, working with an investigator from the California Department of Forestry, Dennis Townsend. The two sifted through debris seeking a cause for the fire.

"Where we are now is that we know it started around an end table in the living room," Pinheiro explained. "The exact cause is still under investigation but there is nothing suspicious about it."

There was no damage to other units, though there was some initial concern because there are four units in that particular pod that share a common attic. Pinheiro said firefighters checked to make sure there was no fire in any part of the attic.

Townsend assisted with the investigation, which is typical in fatalities.

"Overall the investigation is ours," Pinheiro said. "But we call in the State Fire Marshal's office for assistance."

Mello said the loss of life is a tragedy for all involved and the fire department planned a debriefing for members on Monday night, helping them deal with the incident.

Meanwhile, McGuire's family was busy making funeral preparations and trying to come to grips with the situation. Kevin McGuire was a 1982 graduate of Escalon High School and was father to three children, EHS grad Tiffany McGuire; son Michael, a junior at Escalon; and 12-year-old Breanne, who lives in Turlock with her mother.

"We've gotten a lot of support," said dad Larry McGuire.

He remembered his son as an athlete, involved in baseball, football and judo, as well as enjoying fishing trips with the family. They lived in Stockton before moving to Escalon, where Kevin, who is also survived by a brother and a sister, attended El Portal and then Escalon High.

In his career, he spent the past 17 years at Cozad Trailers in Stockton.

"He designed and built the largest heavy haul trailers in the world," said his father. "And this guy, when anybody met him, they'd never forget him...he was always there to help, always willing."

McGuire said his son had a special talent for building and fixing things and often was called on to make items for friends and family.

"Half the stuff in this house, his hand is on it," McGuire said of items in his own home. "People would need something, they would say 'Get Kevin, he'll do that for you'...he loved people, he loved helping people and he never expected anything in return, never wanted any recognition."

McGuire said the family has been buoyed by the love and concern shown to them during this tragic time.

"Tremendous community support," McGuire reiterated. "If it wasn't for the support from the community, I don't know how we'd get through this."

(Courtesy Escalon Times)