Man fighting for life after suspicious fire

July 22, 2011 11:29:00 AM PDT
Authorities in Oakley are calling a house fire that left one person fighting for their life Friday morning suspicious.

Neighbors say they heard a huge explosion around 2 a.m. and each thought it had occurred in their own home. They recalled running outside and seeing that it was the home of their neighbor, an elderly woman. She had actually left the home a couple days ago after taking a fall, but her 41-year-old grandson was home at the time.

Firefighters say when they arrived at the home, they found him laying on the ground screaming. His clothes had been completely blown off. They initially thought it was a gas fire and that perhaps he had been cooking something and the explosion from the range had blown his clothes off. Investigators now say they have discovered a slew of small butane cartridges. They say they no longer believe he was cooking in an oven, but have not released any further details on that.

Contra Costa County Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Burris described the cartridges as a "highly-refined butane cylinder."

He said, "A significant quantity of these were found inside the structure, causing the fire to build rapidly. Most fires start out slowly. The off-duty police officer from the Pittsburg Police Department said the fire basically exploded in front of him and then the occupant jumped out the front window."

The canisters are often associated with drug manufacturing, but authorities cannot confirm if that was actually going on in the house.

The victim suffered second and third-degree burns. No one else was hurt in the fire which remains under investigation.


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