Former Stanford coach nearly loses home to fire, teams up with South Bay officials to warn others

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Thursday, June 13, 2024
Former Stanford head football coach nearly loses home to fire
After a brush fire threatened his home, Stanford's former football coach Tyrone Willingham is warning others to protect their homes.

LOS GATOS, Calif. (KGO) -- After a close call that threatened his home, Stanford's former head football coach is warning others to protect their homes against fires.

Tyrone Willingham teamed up with the Santa Clara County Fire department to spread the word.

A lot that sits between Willingham and his neighbor's property caught fire on May 29.

"My landscaper came and said something's going on," Willingham said, "Then I run around the corner to see what he's talking about and then as soon as you turn the corner, you see this billow of smoke."

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Shadi Allen who owns and lives next to the property said contractors were working on a fence when their tools hit rebar and sparked a fire.

"The fire was moving quickly," she said. "Luckily, we had cut the grass about 10 days prior to this incident happening."

A measure that Santa Clara County fire officials say saved not just Allen's home, but the rest of her community.

"Any structures that you have, we highly recommend cutting the grass down below four inches, getting down to dirt if you can, make sure your dead shrubs are taken out, basically what we want to do is eliminate any fuel in that area because that will help create that defensible space that we're looking for," said Assistant Fire Marshal Jeremy Davis with Santa Clara County Fire Department.

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The John Fire consumed 55 acres of grassland adjacent to a warehouse utilized by the Pittsburg Theatre Company, burning props and costumes.

Though California has seen plenty of rain in the last couple of years, officials say more acres are likely to burn because there's more vegetation.

"When a fire occurs, it moves so fast that by the time the fire suppression crews get on scene, we're trying to find the edges and put it out. We're trying to stop the fire. So, this is where the defensible space really helps," Davis said.

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Davis said whether you live near an open space like the one that burned, or have a home in a city, fire officials are urging everyone this year to stay proactive.

"Regardless of what zone you're in, if you have the dry vegetation, if you add dead plants, it's highly recommended to go ahead and mitigate those and get rid of those because that will always help," he said.

Willingham said this close call is a reminder to himself and hopes others also receive the message to do the preventive work to protect homes.

"The most important thing is you have a chance" Willingham said, "To save yourself and save your neighbors and your neighborhood."

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