Arson suspected in fire that displaced 30 apartment residents

June 13, 2012 7:17:21 PM PDT
Firefighters on the Peninsula think a fire that forced dozens of people out of their homes was set on purpose. It started early Wednesday morning at an apartment building on Stambaugh Street near Chestnut Street in the Stambaugh-Heller neighborhood.

The fire is out, but the work is just starting into the cause. Arson investigators have been kept out until firefighters could reinforce a burned-out corner of the apartment building.

Most of the residents of the two-story apartment complex were asleep when the fire broke out just past midnight. They can thank 13-year-old Jose Arreoi for rousting them out of bed to safety. "I told him all the cars are burning up, and then once I ran outside to see the cars, three blew up at the same time and I yelled? to everybody, 'Get out!'" recalled Jose.

Jose's eyewitness account was spot on. Firefighters said it appears someone set parked cars on fire. "There are some items, some things found with the cars that are making it appear to be a deliberate act," said Redwood City Fire Dept. Batt. Chief Daniel Abrams. "The amount of fire that we found and the burn patterns from the fire that we found are all leading to an extended investigation here."

Thirty people have been displaced. Some lost everything. A fortunate few salvaged what they could. A dog perished in the fire. Residents said it got scared and hid under a bed, unwilling to move.

The Red Cross quickly provided assistance for temporary shelter. Many opted to move in with relatives.

Firefighters from multiple agencies spent most of the day shoring up the badly burned building so investigators can go in and do their work safely.

"I feel really bad. Can you imagine how it feels to lose all your property or have all your property just sitting out front?" said neighbor Sonny Sacheev. "I just had the feeling last night, it was so close, it could have been my home. I feel really, really bad for the neighbors."

The investigation into the cause of the fire is expected to take several days.


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