LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Relatives identified a 90-year-old man killed Tuesday in a fast-moving house fire near Exposition Park as Ray Isum, the brother-in-law of baseball icon Jackie Robinson.
“My father’s father was born in that house. My father was born in that house. I was born in that house,” said the victim’s son, Randy Isum, who had returned home with his father’s lunch to find their house in flames.
The fire broke out just after 10:30 a.m. at 1588 West 36th Place, the L.A. City Fire Department reported. More than 50 firefighters responded to the scene and managed to contain the blaze in half an hour.
A firefighter trying to get to Isum was injured when the floor gave out. He was taken to a hospital with leg burns and listed in fair condition.
Family members said Isum, known as “Uncle Ray,” was popular among people who lived on his street.
“When your bike broke, you went to daddy’s house. When your go-kart didn’t work, you went to daddy’s house. He was a neighborhood fix-it for all the kids. If the ice cream truck comes by, he’d buy ice cream for everybody in the neighborhood; he was that kind of guy,” Randy Isum said.
Isum’s granddaughter Jocelyn Isum said she’ll miss his hugs and wishes she had reached out to him more.
The victim’s sister, Rachel, was Jackie Robinson’s widow. She also grew up in the home and after Robinson’s death, relatives said she gave her brother one of his championship rings.
“I haven’t been in the house to see what else, but the ring – I have the ring. The ring was on his finger,” Isum’s son said.
Firefighters say there were no working smoke alarms, and their rescue efforts were hindered by excessive storage inside the home.
“There were was nothing there to give him that early notification to get out of the home and get 911 here as quickly as possible,” fire Capt. Jaime Moore said.
The family denies Isum was living in pat-rack conditions, saying he continued to work on the house despite his age.
Isum’s marks the 16th civilian death this year in a residential fire in the city of L.A., fire officials reported.
In hopes they could keep that number from rising, firefighters walked Isum’s street Tuesday handing out free smoke alarms to residents.