A beeping smoke alarm woke up the two occupants shortly before 6 a.m. as their apartment filled with thick smoke from a hot fire that fire officials believe started near their Christmas tree.
With the tree blocking the primary exit, the two victims escaped the inferno through a kitchen window, according to the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, which responded to the scene along with assistance from the Richmond Fire Department.
Firefighters first arrived on the scene at 2409 Standard Avenue at 5:57 a.m., and the 17 firefighters from four engines and one ladder truck were able to bring the blaze under control within 15 minutes.
Although the apartment sustained $15,000 in damage to its contents and $50,000 in structural damage, surrounding units were unaffected, the fire district said.
The two victims were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of their serious burns after receiving initial care at the scene.
A firefighter also received burns to the hand during the response and was treated and evaluated at a local hospital.
All other residents of the apartment complex were able to return to their homes after the fire, according to the fire district.
Investigators have yet to determine what sparked the fire, but officials noted that the blaze originated from an area of the apartment near the Christmas tree.
The fire district is reminding residents to locate Christmas trees away from exit paths and away from the main exit doorway.
In addition, trees should be watered daily and disposed of once the needles become too dry. If the needles break when bent between the thumb and forefinger, then its time is up.
The fire district credits the presence of smoke alarms in the apartment from preventing more serious harm to the victims.
Smoke alarms should be placed in every bedroom, in the hallway outside bedrooms, and a minimum of one per floor throughout the rest of the house. Batteries should be regularly replaced - at least twice per year - and the smoke alarm should also be tested regularly, the fire district said.