Elderly woman killed in SLO house fire was well liked in the area

Firefighters respond to a house fire Wednesday in the 500 block of Al-Hil Drive in San Luis Obispo.
Firefighters respond to a house fire Wednesday in the 500 block of Al-Hil Drive in San Luis Obispo. The Tribune

Barbara Beck, the 79-year-old woman who died in a house fire Wednesday, will be missed for a variety of reasons, said Bill Morgan, a Bishop’s Peak neighbor who has lived across the street from Beck for the past 10 years.

“We didn’t know her extremely well,” Morgan said Thursday. “But she was very spry, very active. The kids would see her about a mile from her home, carrying packages or whatever, and they’d say, ‘Look, there’s Mrs. Beck.’ She was an independent spirit, living in her home alone.”

Morgan said that one of her endearing, yet eccentric qualities, was that she’d not only keep her own yard neat and tidy, using a vacuum cleaner to clean up dead patches of grass, but she’d also clean up the yards of her neighbors if there was a mess of some kind that needed attention.

“She loved animals and would always put food out for our two dogs,” he added. “She was really very lucid every time I talked with her. She knew I had two daughters and our family tended to engage her and chat for a spell.

“And she was always happy,” said Morgan. “We’re in shock here, especially my younger daughter, Gabi.”

Morgan said that although Beck’s family would visit on occasion, “by and large, she was by herself. She was remarkable when you think about it.

“She’s going to be missed. We’d come to expect to see her every day out in her yard puttering around. She was a neighborhood character.”

Although the exact cause of death is pending, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rob Bryn, the fire apparently started on an unattended stove in the home’s kitchen.

The San Luis Obispo City Fire Department responded to Beck’s home at 587 Al-Hil Drive around 7 p.m. Wednesday after neighbors called 9-1-1 to report smoke and flames coming from the home.

According to Battalion Chief Dave Podhorsky, the first fire crew on the scene said the 50-year-old home was “well-involved in fire. Neighbors told them that the elderly woman who resided at the house was most likely still inside.”

With the home in flames, firefighters searched the house and found Beck unconscious on the floor of a rear bedroom. They carried her outside and initiated CPR, and then took her to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where she later died from her injuries.

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