by Linda Mumma

MODESTO (CBS13) — Neighbors are in shock and now mourning after a fire killed a person trapped inside their apartment.

Firefighters say they had to pull a person out of a burning apartment and rush them to the hospital. The victim, identified as 43-year-old Abel Maldonado-Olide of Modesto, later died.

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Joseph Thompson knew the Maldonado-Olide.

“Happened to be the guy that I knew that I was trying to get a TV set for,” Thompson said. “[He was] very happy most of the time. He either rode his bike or caught the bus. But he was always active, very happy. Always wanted to talk to me.”

When firefighters arrived at the El Casa Verde apartment complex on Robertson Road before 5 a.m. on Monday, they say they had to temporarily stop fighting the fire to get the person out.

“They made entry into the apartment and found one occupant still inside,” Modesto Fire Division Chief Michael Lillie said. “When we find a victim inside, having to pull that victim out, sometimes the hose line will get abandoned for a minute while we get that victim out and get enough firefighters on scene to reengage with that firefight.”

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The fire spread to the upper floor requiring nearly 30 firefighters from Modesto and Ceres to be rushed in to battle the blaze. Five people living in surrounding units are now left homeless.

“To have something like this happen right before Christmas. It’s a shock and especially the families that maybe had to get pushed out of here. I feel sorry for them,” Thompson said. “I hope they get the help they need.”

Fire investigators spent all morning searching for a cause.

“The investigators have done their investigation in the apartment, but they’re still interviewing witnesses,” Lillie said.

At one point, a Modesto Crime Scene unit was on the scene. Investigators say they’re still trying to determine the exact cause but have not ruled anything out yet.

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The Red Cross is now helping those five people displaced by the fire.