Residents question response to multi-home fire in Bethel Island

March 20, 2013 12:06:57 PM PDT
A raging fire overnight destroyed two homes and damaged a third in Contra Costa County. One person was injured. Firefighters say they faced many challenges battling this blaze. Some residents are asking questions now about the firefighters' response.

The blaze broke out at 2:15 a.m. on Taylor Road. Residents in one of the homes ran outside of the residence without grabbing a thing.

"The only thing that I have on is my underwear and my wet nightie, everything else is borrowed," said homeowner Jody Mazzarella.

Mazzarella knew what to do because fire is her business; she is the co-owner of Mazzy's, a company that specializes in fire prevention. She has hose lines and fire extinguishers at her house and she and her boyfriend tried to use them.

"We ran out an tried to put our fire hose on, which he was instructed to stop and put it down. They wouldn't let him do it," said Mazzarella.

Firefighters were worried about a power line that had come down during the fire, so they stopped fighting the fire for fear of electrocution, which was frustrating for the residents to watch.

"I'm yelling 'put the fire out, put water on the fire. You see it? It's starting to catch the roof on fire'" said resident Eric Dukes.

"We had a power line that dropped and we had to move back for safety of our personnel which hampered fire operations," said East Contra Costa Co. Fire District Chief Hugh Henderson.

The fire actually started at the next door neighbor's home and spread to the Mazzarella house. They lost more than an hour waiting to figure out the power issue while the huge wood home continued to burn. By that time it wasn't safe to go inside. It took about five hours until they finally put the fire out.

"It's a nightmare to go ahead and watch this in slow motion, but it happened," said Dukes.

"I really think we might have had a little bit of a different outcome if we didn't have the power line there, but the safety of our personnel has to come over the property," said Henderson.

A PG&E spokesperson said fire had burned through the power line, so there was no electricity flowing while the house was burning.

Firefighters said the fire was caused by electrical problems at the Mazzarella's neighbor's house.


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