VAN NUYS (  — Fire investigators on Sunday morning were trying to figure out how a deadly overnight fire started in a Van Nuys garage-turned-apartment on Victory Boulevard.

One man died in the fire, despite efforts from neighbors to rescue him.

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Flames and smoke were first seen coming from the garage at about 4:45 a.m., when neighbors rushed over with garden hoses to tamp the flames.

One neighbor rushed into the garage to attempt to rescue the man trapped inside, who was apparently unconscious when the fire started. The rescuer had to give up when he was overcome by smoke. The attempted rescuer was later taken to the hospital and is expected to recover, authorities said.

LA firefighters put the fire out within 13 minutes of arriving. The garage’s inhabitant was declared dead on the scene.

Arson investigators were on the scene Sunday morning.

CBS2’s Joy Benedict was told candles might have set off the deadly blaze.

Flames were everywhere, witnesses said.

“Flames were like 20 feet away. They were burning the trees really fast, really fast,” said neighbor Anna Morales.

She alerted family and neighbors as her husband grabbed a hose.

“It was coming towards our house,” Morales added, “the first thing I thought was my house is the next one.”

Another neighbor rushed into the home to try to save the man.

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“The person that was trying to rescue the victim, had to drag the victim a fair amount of distance  and he was unable to do that before he became overcome with smoke,” said Capt. Dan Curry of the LA County Fire Department.

The heroic neighbor was taken to the hospital with injuries.

The man who died — identified by a friend as Danilo Mata Larios — was just a few feet from his doorway where he succumbed.

“He was a great guy, like a brother,” said J. D. De La Rosa, who owns J.D’s Recycling a few blocks away.

He said Larios worked for him for seven years and had no family.

“He was one of the persons, that as an employer, as an owner of a business, you will love to have him,” said De La Rosa.

One neighbor mourned the loss of a man who was in his early 50s.

“I think it’s really sad he didn’t get a chance to live more,” said Lindsey Lopez.




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