It was just after 6:30pm when Efren Rosas heard a crackling sound coming from behind him.
He was dozing off on the couch; the television was on. There was no one else home at the time. His brother, Galdino Rosas, had gone out to see a movie with the rest of the family.
But Efren had stayed behind, wanting to relax.
When the crackling sound got his attention, Efren turned to see a wave of growing flames moving toward him.
He quickly got himself up and pulled himself into his wheelchair. Then he wheeled himself out the front door of the house, the growing fire right at his back.
As Efren is disabled, with only one leg, making it out of the home alive was no easy feat. But he made it out in time. Just barely.
“The house is on fire,” Efren told his brother Galdino over the phone, once he was outside and safe.
Galdino rushed back home to find his brother out in front of the house. The fire department arrived a few minutes later.
“It was a relief to see him outside,” said Galdino. “All this time, I had always wheeled him in and out of the house. That day, he was able to get himself out.”
The fire raged on for about two hours or so. As Galdino watched his family home burn to the ground, he thought to himself: A whole memory is going away. This is unrecoverable.
“Nothing could be salvaged in the house,” said Galdino.
This happened just last week, on Tuesday.
The home, located on 606 Hamilton Drive, had been in the family since 1981. Galdino’s three kids grew up in the home. The home had been his foundation. It had been a place of comfort and security for both brothers.
But now it’s gone.
The night of the fire, Efren was taken to Valley Medical, with second degree burns on the back of his body. He is still currently being treated, and might soon be sent to a nursing home. Due to his diabetes, it is taking him longer than usual to recover.
Meanwhile, Galdino is grappling with the aftermath of the fire. Since he has no insurance, the journey toward recovering what was lost will undoubtedly be an uphill battle.
This past June, Galdino had finished paying off his mortgage. The mortgage had been bundled with his insurance by his loan company.
“For over 40 years I was paying the loan, and I let them handle the insurance,” said Galdino.
He received a couple of letters this summer, letting him know that since the loan was paid off, Galdino would have to arrange to start paying for the insurance separately.
But in the last few months, he had never gotten around to it. He was busy being a caregiver to his brother, along with supporting his father, who himself is in a nursing home. All of his focus was on taking care of his family.
“When I was watching the house burn down, that was my thought. After paying the insurance for so long, I hadn’t acted on continuing it,” Galdino told The Beat. “The intention was to leave the house to my kids. Now I have no house to leave for them.”
Caregiving is a value that runs deep in Galdino’s family. His parents, who had some health problems, were living in Southern California for some time. Starting in 1995, his brother Efren, who wasn’t yet disabled, was their caregiver.
The parents, along with Efren, moved in with Galdino in Milpitas in the year 2006. Their mom had diabetes and eventually had to have her leg amputated. She passed away in 2014. Efren would also be diagnosed with diabetes, and have his leg amputated a few years ago, at the start of the pandemic. Prior to the fire, Galdino had been retired; he was caring round the clock for his brother and also his father.
Around the same time Efren had his amputation, their father had a bad fall in front of the house. He broke his left hip and has been unable to walk since. He moved out of Galdino’s home to go into the nursing facility.
“I’m grateful he wasn’t still living with us. He might not have been able to make it out in time with the fire,” said Galdino.
Galdino feels grateful for the support of his family and neighbors, who have been by his side since the fire happened, helping in any way they can.
The Beat reached out to the City and Milpitas Fire Department, and Fire Chief Jason Schoonover shared that the fire was currently being investigated “with no determination of cause.”
The Rosas Family has started a GoFundMe to help Galdino and Efren during this hard time. They’re trying to raise as much as they can to clean up the site and purchase new items for Efren, like a new wheelchair and bed. All of their belongings were lost in the fire, so they are accepting donations of any kind.
In the future, if they’re able to get the money together, they would like to demolish what is left of the home and rebuild a new home in its place.
Although the family has been shattered by the loss of the home, Cristal Rosas, Galdino’s daughter, told The Beat that they are beyond grateful that Efren made it out alive.
“Any second wasted would have been a different outcome. We’re so lucky that he’s okay,” Cristal said.
Please consider supporting the Rosas Family during this difficult time by making a donation on GoFundMe.