Destructive Sunnyvale fire under investigation

Byby Tiffany Wilson KGO logo
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Destructive Sunnyvale fire under investigation
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The cause of a fast-moving fire that ripped through a Sunnyvale neighborhood, damaging two homes, is under investigation.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- An investigation is underway in Sunnyvale after a fast-moving fire ripped through two homes.

Two families are out of their homes after one house caught fire and the flames spread to the other. The three-alarm fire happened in Sunnyvale on Lantana Drive near Wolfe Road and Reed Avenue.

Choking smoke and searing flames lapped just footsteps from Joseph Moreno's front door. For the Sunnyvale resident, grabbing a garden hose and climbing onto his roof was simply the act of a man defending his castle.

"I wasn't thinking straight," Moreno said. "I realize that, but I had to protect my property. I was just scared and I was afraid my house was going to burn up it was so hot."

A one man firewall.

"Firefighters and police told me to get down, they were going to arrest me for watering my house down," he said

When asked what he thought about their threat, Moreno answered, "I think it was stupid. It's my house, my property, I should have the right to water it down if I want."

"It's a noble effort to want to protect your stuff, I can understand that," said Captain Jeff Hunter with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. "Not advisable by us, we don't want anyone getting hurt."

Tree trimmers noticed the fire between the two homes first. They banged on both doors, alerting Eric Malmstrom's mom.

"She barged into my room yelling and saying, 'fire, the house is on fire, you need to get out,'" Malmstrom said.

He thought she was joking.

"Then I knew my mom's not a great actress," said Malmstrom.

So he put his cat named Buddy in a backpack and rushed outside.

"This is his first field trip," he said. "So far he's okay as long as he's got daddy."

No one was home next door and the couple's dog, Gilly, did not make it.

"They always walk their dog, it's a young Dalmatian, it's just unfortunate," said neighbor Dan Schmidt.

More than 30 firefighters attacked the fire.

At its worst, flames shot through the roof about eight or nine feet into the air.

When a wall started to collapse, crews retreated and worked from the outside.

Folks from throughout the neighborhood gathered to watch and commiserate. Many wore masks to protect against the smoke.

"We know the neighbors well and really feel bad for them," said Kim Harris.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.