House fire in Pleasant Hill triggers car explosions

A Contra Costa County family is safe after their house caught on fire overnight and triggered their cars to explode.
October 16, 2013 12:27:56 PM PDT
A Contra Costa County family is safe after their house caught on fire overnight and triggered their cars to explode dramatically.

The homeowner gave firefighters footage from a surveillance camera that showed the fire start around 1:30 a.m. on the side of the house where there was a pile of oily rags he had recently been using.

The fire raged for 13 minutes before the family of three sleeping inside woke up to noises coming from the garage. "The family got really lucky and the family did a really good job getting out," Battalion Fire Chief Clive Savacool said.

An 11-year-old girl and her parents safely escaped and rang the doorbell of the neighbor across the street. "As soon as I opened the door, I saw it just directly across the street. The whole house looked to be engulfed in flames," neighbor Jenny Vanderlaan said.

The house and the two cars in the driveway all caught fire and at one point, exploded. "As they were burning, one of the cars had some magnesium in the dashboard and that created some dramatic explosions and popping," Savacool explained.

Firefighters also had to deal with a power line that went crashing down. They eased up on the water they put on the cars so it wouldn't trickle down to the live wire and a firefighter was assigned to watch the power line to make sure no one went near it.

The downed line made residents at the top of the cul-de-sac feel a bit trapped as they watched the huge fire burn. "It was scary. So, and then I was thinking we need to just run down the street because we can't drive away. I had my dog all leashed up," Vanderlaan recalled.

Once the fire was out, the homeowner went into recovery mode, locating two of their three cats and securing a hotel room for his family. Watching it all happen had quite an impact on this Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

"When it's somebody that lives in your neighborhood so close, it really hits home. It feels really tragic," neighbor Heidi Botts said.

Investigators say the cause of the fire does not look suspicious. Fire officials told the homeowner that pile of oily rags he has recently used while staining his deck most likely combusted and started the fire.


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