A 16-year-old girl is fighting for her life Wednesday after getting trapped inside her burning home in unincorporated Hayward.
The teenager's 17-year-old brother and 8-year-old nephew were also injured when the fire, which created thick plumes of smoke, broke out at a residence at Gribben Avenue and Mero Street around 8:25 a.m.
The flames were extinguished in 15 minutes, officials said, but not before a neighbor heard screams and leaped to action.
"I heard the windows kind of crack and kind of explode a little bit, and then just fire [billowed] out," Mike Nguyen said.
While the girl shouted for help from inside the house, Nguyen said her brother, who carried their nephew out of the house, was "screaming for his sister, pleading for her to come to his voice, come towards the window."
The boy was "just covered with smoke," said neighbor Shanya Prasad. "It was really dark. You couldn’t tell if he was fine or not. You could just see him shivering."
Nguyen, who was on his way to work at the time, climbed through the girl's bedroom window, in an effort to help.
"I got five feet in and the smoke just kind of was too thick and kind of overwhelming," he recalled. "I couldn’t breathe. It got too hot, so I went back out."
Alameda County firefighters arrived a few minutes later and rescued the girl after putting out the flames.
Battalion Chief Tom Pappas said the fire started at the "back of the living room."
He continued: "There was obviously high heat in the back bedroom. Certainly, smoke inhalation, I would assume, is her major concern right now."
Sergio Zepeda, the teenagers' father, said the three children were alone at home while he and his wife were at work.
"I come here and I see the stuff that you see," he said. "I want to go inside and everything is bad."
The girl was airlifted to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where she is being treated for life-threatening injuries.
"That was my biggest fear, you know, that we didn't get to her in time," Nguyen said.
An investigation is underway into the cause of the fire.