Blaze takes family's pet

July 26, 2005|By: Lauren Vane

A family of four escaped a two-alarm house fire that destroyed their

Corona del Mar home and killed their pet Monday morning.

Investigators have determined the fire was started by "smoking

material" -- such as cigarettes or ashes -- in a trash can in a

bedroom, Newport Fire Department spokeswoman Jennifer Schulz said.

The family's German shepherd died in the fire that broke out at

about 7:45 a.m. in the 2000 block of Yacht Vindex in the Sea View


Homes community. One woman was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and

no one else was injured, fire officials said.

"Fortunately, this happened in the morning," Newport Beach Fire

Capt. Chip Duncan said. "If this had happened at night, there would

have been fatalities for sure."

The fire caused an estimated $300,000 in damage, leaving the house

red-tagged with a dangerously unstable roof.

Duncan, whose unit was first on the scene, said the fire moved

quickly and produced an extraordinary amount of smoke and heat. He

said he was "very surprised" that no one was killed in the blaze.

In the now blackened bedroom, where the fire is believed to have

started, the only color was from an iridescent pink shoe peaking out

from beneath the ashes. Aside from the shoe, a torched computer and

the tangled springs of what used to be a mattress were the only

distinguishable items.

The fire was so hot it singed plants and melted a sprinkler

apparatus in a neighbor's yard. The fire did not damage neighboring

homes, but firefighters were ready with hoses in case the blaze

threatened other structures.

Information from initial calls led firefighters to believe several

people were still trapped inside the residence. When firefighters

arrived, they found one woman outside on a balcony to the rear of the

residence, Duncan said.

Firefighters searched the burning structure for anyone still

inside and later confirmed that the remaining family members had

escaped the fire and were safely waiting at a neighbor's house,

Duncan said. Firefighters were able to successfully guide the woman

from the balcony and out of the house.

Firefighters used a thermal imager to predict the direction of the

fire and prevent it from spreading further into the house. The fire

was extinguished after 20 minutes, and salvage operations continued

into the afternoon.

The family was having coffee on the patio when they noticed smoke

coming from the bedroom, Duncan said.

One of the residents tried to put out the fire with a fire

extinguisher, but called 911 when the fire became too large.

American Red Cross volunteers were on hand to help the family deal

with the loss of the home and pet. Volunteers said members of the

family were too emotional to comment.

"We're going to do everything we can to help them along," Red

Cross Field Supervisor Larry Wilens said.

* LAUREN VANE covers public safety and courts. She may be reached

at (714) 966-4618.

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