Fire captain injured in Rodeo blaze expected to recover

A firefighter and a resident were injured in a smoky fire Tuesday night in a Rodeo apartment complex.

October 6, 2010 1:52:21 PM PDT
A fire captain who was injured while preparing to enter a burning apartment building in Rodeo on Tuesday evening is expected to make a full recovery, Rodeo-Hercules Fire District Chief Alan Biagi said.

A resident who was also injured in the fire was treated for burns to his hand and was released from the hospital Tuesday night, Biagi said.

The fire was reported at 7:45 p.m. in a three-unit apartment building in the 100 block of John Street, a fire dispatcher said.

Firefighters received word that someone was trapped inside and immediately called for a second alarm, Biagi said. When they got there, they found an upstairs unit engulfed in flames.

As they were putting on their suits and preparing to enter the building, a gust of wind came up and blew hot smoke at the captain, a 27-year veteran of the fire department, Biagi said.

The captain was immediately taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Doctors kept him overnight as a precaution, and he was expected to be released from the hospital today.

Biagi said a lung-full of smoke from a burning building can be extremely dangerous because it "contains a witch's brew of known and unknown chemicals."

As the captain was being treated, other firefighters searched the building and determined that everyone was out.

Biagi said the fire started in the kitchen of one of the two units on the second floor, where a resident left food on the stove. The resident, who apparently forgot that the food was still cooking, had left the apartment.

The fire had been smoldering for some time by the time the resident came home and discovered it. At first he saw just a small fire in the back of the unit, but as soon as it got oxygen from the open door, the blaze flashed through the apartment, Biagi said.

He was able to escape uninjured.

However, a resident living in the downstairs apartment had an existing ankle injury and as other residents were helping him out, he somehow came into contact with a burning object that had come down from the second floor, Biagi said.

Damage was estimated to be about $500,000. The apartment where the fire started was destroyed, and there was smoke damage to the adjacent apartment. There was no damage to the downstairs unit or downstairs garages.

Six adults were displaced by the blaze and the American Red Cross was assisting them in finding temporary housing, Biagi said.


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