BARSTOW Firefighters responding to a house fire that injured three residents early Tuesday were delayed by about five minutes because they had to take a detour around the First Street bridge due to new weight limits.

Firefighters responded to the blaze on the 37000 block of San Bruno Avenue around 5:38 a.m., according to the Barstow Fire Protection District. The fire was contained to only one room in the home and started accidentally due to an electrical malfunction, according to the fire district.

Shirley and Donald Cunningham were asleep in their bedroom when the fire broke out and their son Donnie Cunningham managed to rescue both of them before firefighters arrived, according to Shirley.

Firefighters managed to put out the fire within about 15 minutes of arrival, but the family living in the home said it took about 20 minutes for firefighters to arrive. Because of new weight restrictions on the First Street bridge, the fire engines have to take longer routes to reach the north end of the district.

Barstow Fire Protection District Fire Chief Darrell Jauss did not know the exact time for the response Tuesday, but said it normally takes six to seven minutes to reach the area where the fire occurred. Fire crews said it took an extra five minutes to reach the fire Tuesday morning due to the detour using Interstate 15 to Old Highway 58, said Jauss. Crews have done some testing and have found that using the interstate is faster than using the Yucca Avenue bridge, depending on traffic.

The fire on Tuesday started when an electric blanket being used by Donald and Shirley caught fire, said Shirley. Shirley suffered minor injuries in the fire and was taken to Barstow Community Hospital where she was later released but Donald and Donnie both suffered first and second degree burns and smoke inhalation in the fire and were airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.

Donnie smelled the smoke before the fire alarms went off and managed to get both Donald and Shirley out of the house safely, said Shirley.

"He's my hero," said Shirley about her son. "He's always been my hero."

Along with rescuing his parents from the fire, Donnie might have also saved the rest of the house by shutting the bedroom door on his way out, said Jauss.

"The fire would have been much worse had it not been for the quick thinking of (Donnie) Cunningham," said Jauss.


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(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com