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Rupert Meda told a KGET-TV reporter in Bakersfield, California, that he was away from his house only 30 minutes last Thursday, but that was long enough for his life to be turned upside down.

Rupert said he had driven to a home improvement store to buy parts for his lawn’s sprinkler system, but when he returned, his house on 32nd Street was overcome by a raging fire.

Rupert’s wife, Rose Mary, and their 10-year-old grandson, Nathan, still were inside the house.

Meda family: searching for answers

The Meda family is waiting for Bakersfield Fire Department investigators to complete their investigation into the cause of the fatal fire. In the meantime, neighbors have been able to provide some clues.

Rupert’s son, Fernando, said all indications are that the fire was caused by a gas explosion.

“One of the neighbors said that the fire was coming out of the ground,” Fernando said. “It’s all hearsay. We were trying to talk to the fire department this morning. They said they still don’t have a cause. What caused it or how it started – they’re still investigating.”

Meda family seeks answers after fatal Bakersfield fire

Meda family seeks answers after fatal Bakersfield fire

Meda family: Nathan a ‘little hero’

Fernando said his mother, Rose Mary, 58, used a wheelchair and was bedridden after undergoing knee-replacement surgery on both legs. Additionally, she had reinjured herself and was scheduled to have a third knee replacement Monday.

Fernando said he is certain his nephew did all he could to protect his grandmother when the 460-square foot house, which was built in 1930 and sided with cedar shingles, caught fire.

“My nephew had a big heart,” Fernando said. “If you knew Nathan, he had a huge heart. He wouldn’t have left her alone, even if my mom pushed him out. He still would have said, ‘No, Nana’ — they called her Nana. So he wouldn’t have left her — he would have gone back. Little hero.”

Meda family: outpouring of support

When firefighters finally entered the house, they found grandmother and grandson together in the lone bedroom.

By Saturday, the house’s front-yard fence had been decorated with balloons, flowers and candles — so many candles that another, much smaller fire started, necessitating another visit by the fire department.

This week, except for those balloons bumping occasionally in the breeze, the yard is quiet.

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