Father, 16-year-old son escape San Rafael apartment fire by climbing down bed sheets

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- Four San Rafael families are out of their homes the day after Christmas because of a fire that heavily damaged their apartment building. One family escaped the flames by tying sheets together and climbing down from a second-story window.

All that's left of the apartment 16-year-old Eleam Rodas lived in with his parents and siblings is a burned out shell. It was a fire he barely escaped after being awakened from a mid-morning nap.

"I woke up to my dad coming inside the room telling me to get up and there's a fire," he said.

Rodas was groggy, but aware enough to try to get out.

"I tried to like, go outside the front door and there's fire all over the porch, so we had to jump out the window in the back."

Actually, they didn't exactly jump. They climbed down a couple of bed sheets that his dad hastily tied together, anchored, and then threw out the window.

"Very impressive, quick thinking on their part" responded San Rafael Assistant Fire Chief Bob Sinnott.

Sinnott says because of the potential for evacuations, the response quickly went to two alarms.

"We believe the fire was either somewhere just immediately inside the front door of one of the two upstairs units, or outside. We're suspecting a barbecue."

The two upstairs apartments suffered heavy fire damage. The two directly below suffered smoke and water damage. There was one minor injury. Those units are unlivable, but occupants will be allowed to return to the other apartments. Everyone is grateful that there were no serious injuries, but saddened that this happened the day after Christmas.

"This time of year there's a lot going on. It's cold, people are using space heaters, they have fireplaces, Christmas trees," Sinnott said.

The Red Cross is helping the displaced families find shelter temporarily. Meantime Rodas is trying to hold on to his teen-aged optimism.

"It's rough I guess, but in school I have a bunch of friends around me that live around here that are accepting, so if we ever have a need, they'll help us out," he said.

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.