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Fire victim may have re-entered home

The woman who died in an east Templeton house fire reportedly escaped the home with her husband but then possibly went back inside.

The body of Dorothy Thorne Hubbs, 85, was found outside her home at 4225 S. El Pomar Road on Sunday evening.

A friend said Hubbs at one time was a fixture at monthly luncheons for neighbors in the rural North County community.

“She was one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever known,” friend Frances Wilson said. “Always so sweet to send me birthday cards. You know, little things like that.”

Cal Fire Capt. Chad Zrelak said Hubbs’ husband, Earl Hubbs, went back into the ranch-style house with a water hose to extinguish the fire before it spread.

When the hose couldn’t reach, he came back out only to find his wife wasn’t there.

“He thought she went back inside,” Zrelak said. Neighbors said they could hear Earl Hubbs yelling for her, not knowing where she was.

Neighbor Larry Smyth remembers seeing searchlights scouring the property Sunday night.

When she was found, her body was outside on the west side of the house, a possible sign that she went back through the house and escaped out another door.

She and her husband originally escaped out the east side.

Still, investigators have not determined exactly what happened. The condition of her body was not disclosed.

An autopsy to determine her cause of death is scheduled for today.

Earl Hubbs was taken to a local hospital Sunday for observation for smoke inhalation, Zrelak said.

His condition was unknown Tuesday. He and other family members could not be reached for comment.

Friends described Dorothy Hubbs as a thoughtful woman who at one time loved to lunch with her neighbors.

Wilson said she met Hubbs through the El Pomar Women’s Club, which was a group of neighbors living in rural Templeton who get together at monthly luncheons.

Even though they hadn’t visited in the last few years, Wilson said news of her friend’s death was difficult. The longtime Templeton resident had heard of the fire, she recalled, but didn’t know at whose home it occurred.

“When we found out I thought, ‘Oh, it couldn’t be,’ ” Wilson said. “ ‘It couldn’t be possible.’ ”

Fire Investigators: Wall heater likely cause

Investigators say a propane wall heater likely caused the fire that burned two thirds of the ranch-style home, deeming it a total loss.

A garage and barn on the property were saved, but the total estimated damage is about $300,000, according to County/Cal Fire.

A cloth-covered chair was in front of the heater, located in a south bedroom of the 2,000-square-foot house. When the heat penetrated the chair, it caught fire, Cal Fire Capt. Chad Zrelak said.

— Tonya Strickland

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