'Christmas house' fire in Martinez under investigation


From PG&E to midnight trespassers, the homeowner, neighbors, and firefighters each have their own suspicions on how the fire might have started.

Firefighters say it is rare for fire to strike twice, but this is the second time the home has caught fire. The owner says she couldn't believe it when she got the call around 4 a.m. Tuesday. "It was terrible the first time around. This time it's worse because my neighbors house is gone too, the whole side of it," homeowner Sharon Brock told ABC7 News.

Pat Martindale got out OK, but is feeling a bit shaky. This was her second time waking up to a fire next door. The last time was back in January. "I heard the popping sounds and then I woke up, and my room was all red from the flames. I looked out the window and there were more flames this time than last time," she recalled.

No one was living at the home this time and it was scheduled to be demolished so on Monday, a PG&E crew was there to take out the gas meter. Brock can't help but feel suspicious about the timing. "Well, I don't know. It was fine for the last six months and then all of a sudden PG&E comes and takes the meter off and it burns down. So, I have no idea until the inspectors go through it," she said.

But firefighters say they actually don't think PG&E was the problem. "The time between when PG&E left and the time when the fire was, was a very long time," said Robert Marshall with the Contra Costa County Fire Department. Instead, they're focusing on what the neighbors have told them. "We have reports of trespassers on the property fairly frequently. So, we're looking into the possibility that those trespassers may have had something to do with the fire here this morning," Marshall said.

Before it was the house that caught fire twice, it was known as the Christmas house because of its lavish holiday decorations. "People come by every year and see the Christmas house and it was extravagant. Everybody knows, it was beautiful," Brock said.

Firefighters will be looking to see what the people seen at the house in the middle of the night might have been doing that could have started the fire, but as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the structure was not sound enough for authorities to go inside.

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