2009-02-26 / Front Page

Man, 41, killed in fire

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

Investigations continue after firefighters found a 41-year-old Newbury Park man dead inside a burning trailer behind a Lynn Ranch home on Monday.

Benjamin John Schroeder was found inside a blazing fifth-wheel trailer parked behind a home in the 600 block of Calle Sequoia.

Several people called to report the fire at 2:30 a.m. Five engines, a ladder truck and extra support equipment and personnel were dispatched, said Ventura County Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Ron Oatman.

Firefighters could see the flames from one-quarter mile away. As they neared the large one-story, single-family home, they saw the fire burning at the rear of the structure, Oatman said.

On fire was the 30-foot trailer Schroeder was temporarily living in, said Ventura County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Capt. Ross Bonfiglio.

As firefighters began battling the blaze, they learned there was someone inside the trailer. In a matter of seconds, chain saws were used to cut a large hole in the side of the trailer to give firefighters access to the occupant.

The hole revealed Schroeder, who was already dead, Oatman said.

Neither Oatman nor Bonfiglio could explain why Schroeder didn't escape the trailer on his own. Oatman didn't know if there were smoke detectors inside the trailer; that's still being investigated, he said.

The exact cause has yet to be determined, but initial investigations led firefighters to believe it was most likely an electrical malfunction, starting in the kitchen, possibly beginning in the refrigerator, Oatman said.

The fire destroyed the trailer but didn't burn the nearby house, he said.

"We don't believe it's a crime or a suicide," Bonfiglio said.

By 2:47 a.m., the fire was extinguished, Oatman said.

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