Monday's San Jose fire deemed accidental

Firefighters say Eichler homes are dangerous after three were heavily damaged in a fire in San Jose on Monday.
April 8, 2014 8:46:24 PM PDT
Fire investigators have now determined a fire that burned three homes in San Jose Monday was an accident.

The fire destroyed one house, and damaged two others, on Mossbrook Circle. One woman, a retired physician, lost everything she owned.

The neighborhood is filled with Eichler homes, which can fuel fires because of their open air construction and this isn't the first one here to catch fire.

"This is number four, the house on the corner burnt down, the house next to our house burnt down, so these Eichlers go quickly," neighbor Mike Thompson said.

There are at least 1,500 Eichler homes in San Rafael. These homes have a huge fan base because they are so unique to California. Fans of the homes say, despite critics they are safe from fire.

You could say Renee Adelmann is a big Eichler fan. She's been selling the mid-century gems for 10 years. She showed us around her own Eichler in San Rafael. It's a double a-frame model built in the 1960s.

"I believe that's why people really love Eichler's so much because they really let people take in nature," Adelmann said.

These homes have quite the cult following among those who love modern, open floor plans. The homes have lots of glass and atriums which bring the outdoors in.

In the 60s , developer Joseph Eichler wanted to make the unique homes affordable to all. He sold them for $9,400 each in the Bay Area. Today they're worth a lot more.

"I have one on the market for $1.3 million," Adelmann said.

But some firefighters say the homes can be dangerous after three Eichler's were heavily damaged in a San Jose fire on Monday.

"Because it is so open, it allows for more air to flow through, which helps with the fuel production," San Jose Fire Department Capt. Cleo Doss said.

Not all firefighters agree, especially after upgrades have been made to the homes.

"We love them because of not only the design, but the spirit behind each one of these homes. You can really feel it," Menlo Park realtor Monique Lombardelli said.

Lombardelli acquired the original drawings to several Eichler models and she's selling copies for $5,000 each. The plans have been modified to today's code standards. She says old or new, these houses are safe.

"I do not think these homes are harmful to people. I think that with any house there are problems, with an Eichler all these issues with them they are solveable," Lombardelli said.


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