Firefighters extinguished a blaze that gained intensity Wednesday afternoon when flames reached a gas main and destroyed the garage of a west Modesto home.
As if the roaring gas-fed fire wasn't enough, firefighters also had to deal with arcing utility wires that provided power to the home. The flames had melted off the exterior of an underground electrical service conduit next to the gas main, said Battalion Chief Hugo Patino of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority.
The blaze displaced six adults and three children, all members of an extended family living in the home. The home's occupants got out safely, but they were missing one of their dogs. Firefighters searched the home and found the family dog, "Honey," who was in good condition. One of the firefighters handed the dog to one of the children nervously waiting down the street.
The fire was reported about 3:15 p.m. at the single-story house at the end of a cul-de-sac on Rouse Court, west of Harris Avenue and south of Paradise Road.
The first firefighters to arrive were part of a rescue truck company that assessed the blaze and provided information to engine companies on their way. Because the truck doesn't have water, a nearby engine from the Burbank-Paradise Fire Department responded to assist the Modesto firefighters.
Patino said the Burbank-Paradise engine crew was the first to bring out its hoses and attack the blaze. The firefighters established a defensive stance, stopping the flames from reaching houses on either side.
Another crew cut holes in the home's roof, ventilating the smoke and flames to stop the fire's spread. Some of the flames burned through a wooden fence and scorched some of the front yard grass at the home on the south side of the burning garage.
Patino said the fire started somewhere inside the garage, and it appears to be accidental. The cause of the fire, however, had not been determined.
The flames destroyed the garage, a nearby laundry room and a car parked in the driveway. The rest of the home sustained significant smoke damage.
There was a report of a gas explosion, Patino said, but fire officials had not confirmed that report.
A roaring sound coming from the garage could be heard about 30 feet away. Patino said the sound was the fire burning spewing pressurized natural gas.
He said letting the gas-fed fire burn is the safest thing to do, "because we know what the gas is going to do." Trying to put out the gas fire only increases the risks.
Modesto Irrigation District was called to shut off power to the home, and firefighters waited for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to arrive at the home and advise them before shutting off the gas valve.
It took firefighters about 20 minutes to get the fire under control. Officials estimated the fire caused $100,000 in damage to the home and its contents.
Patino said they rotated fire crews to prevent heat exhaustion as they tackled the blaze. Red Cross officials were called to the scene to assist the family to find a place to stay and counseling if needed.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.