Eviction prompts woman to set self ablaze

A woman who was going to be evicted next month started a fire at a four-unit apartment building in Santa Rosa Sunday afternoon by lighting herself on fire, a Central Fire Authority fire inspector said.

Melissa McMullin, 44, barricaded the bedroom door, poured the gas on her bed, herself and the bedroom of her apartment and lit it with a lighter around 5:30 p.m., Fire Inspector Cyndi Foreman said.

McMullin then tried to escape through a bedroom window of her home at 199 Barbara Drive, but one of her sons, who was next door, kicked the door in and dragged her outside, Foreman said.

McMullin suffered third-degree burns on her arms and feet and was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Foreman said:

“She was feeling desperate. She didn’t want to live. I’ve never seen someone try to commit suicide by lighting themselves on fire. …┬áIt’s a very tragic story.”

Because McMullin’s clothing was too soaked to be ignited by the gas, her burn injuries were not lethal. Foreman said:

“The gas vapors cause the real damage.”

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and county mental health service workers will assist the Central Fire Authority with the investigation, Foreman said:

“The challenge is the mental health side of it, but there will be charges.”

McMullin lived alone in the 500-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment off Moorland Avenue just outside southwest Santa Rosa city limits in unincorporated Sonoma County. She was to be evicted April 30.

The fire destroyed two units and caused smoke damage to the remaining units, Santa Rosa Battalion Chief Ken Sebastiani said.

Damage is estimated at $500,000, Foreman said.